Planting garlic in early October and harvesting it in early August is pretty standard practice in northern New England. Garlic is one of the easiest vegetables to grow — and one of the most satisfying. Buying bleached, desiccated supermarket garlic can’t compare to having your own supply of fresh, juicy garlic. All it takes to grow good garlic is some healthy seed stock and a bed of nicely worked soil with lots of compost mixed in. One other factor that determines how well your garlic will grow is the temperature at which you store your seed garlic. Garlic performs best if the seed stock is exposed to temperatures between 43 and 50 degrees before planting. Storing the stock in a woodshed or similar cold place for a couple of weeks before planting will do the trick. If it begins to get too cold and you have to move your cloves indoors to keep them from freezing, the move will not negate the benefit the cold already had on your stock.

When you’re ready to plant, push cloves in three or four inches deep, about six inches apart. Cloves should be covered, but the soil needn’t be firmed over them. Then cover with six to eight inches of mulch, something fluffy like straw or hay. Winter rain and snow will compact this mulch to half that thickness, or less. Mulch moderates temperature fluctuations, preventing alternate freezing and thawing that can heave cloves out of the ground. It also conserves moisture needed to initiate root growth and controls weeds. Once spring returns, your garlic will be poking shoots up through its cozy blanket of mulch and you should only have to pull a few random weeds throughout the summer. Easy-peasy.

But there are other ways to grow garlic than the traditional plant-a-clove, harvest-a-head method. Some gardeners choose to grow several harvests of tasty, tender garlic greens while they wait for their fall crop. It’s similar to growing green onions. If you plant some seed cloves just an inch deep and closer together than if you’re raising a mature head, you can harvest the green shoots in about six weeks, pulling the whole plant. Chop it into salads, egg dishes or just about anything you wish to have garlic flavor. The good thing about harvesting garlic greens is that there’s no heads to dig or cloves to peel; just pull, wash and eat.

Rather than pulling garlic that you plant for its greens, you can wait until the shoots are about eight inches tall and cut them off just above the ground. You can do this several times over the course of the growing season before letting the plants rest and rejuvenate until the next year, as you would asparagus and rhubarb. If you choose to to grow green garlic in this manner, as a semi-perennial crop, you’ll want to give it a good feeding with bonemeal and organic fertilizer in the fall, as you would when planting spring bulbs, and again in the spring, when you can draw back the mulch and top-dress with compost.