Anyway, before any more of my garlic found its way into winey beef casseroles or ground onto crusty bread, I thought I'd take the opportunity afforded by a day or two of watery winter sun to plant out this year's crop.
They're very quick to plant if you already have established raised beds - just select a nice weed free area, lay out the cloves in rows using a bamboo cane as a guide - mine were about 6 inches apart, and about a foot between the rows, and when you're happy with the layout just go along the rows planting them with your trowel so that the top of the clove is just covered with soil Raised beds are best because you can work from the sides, - walking on the soil at this time of year compacts and damages its structure I don't dig my established beds at all any more, adding as much organic matter as I can during the year seems to keep it in good heart, and not treading on it with my size sevens in the winter helps maintain structure and drainage. If you're starting from scratch with a new garden, you will need to get rid of the nastier perennial weeds like ground elder first, but if you're thorough this is a one time dig.
Straight rows look nicer and make weeding easier, but I've reduced this job to a minimum here as the garlic bed is the first to receive the many offerings from the lawn mower in our garden. The garlic will be growing well by the time you start cutting the grass, so use the first lawn mowings to mulch the garlic bed, making sure you cover every inch of visible earth with the mowings. The grass gradually rots down and enriches the soil, smothering weed seedlings at the same time. Keep it topped up during the year and you'll be feeding your crop, enriching your soil, and saving yourself all that tedious weeding at the same time. Oh and if it turns out to be a humdinger of a summer it will also cut down on watering needs too.
Maybe this year I'll treat myself to a deck chair.