Non-gardening season was extra short this year, especially for me. My 2011 gardening season ended on a raw December day when most people already had up outdoor holiday decorations in their yard, and I was out in mine attempting to plant garlic.


It was an accident, like many ventures in my gardening career. I had bought garlic at the farmers market in fall, and I set it aside to plant a few weeks after the first killing frost, as instructed. But that was a long time coming, and eventually I tucked it out of sight (and mind) when guests were coming over.

Then in December, my husband asked what had ever happened to the garlic we had bought. Well, shoot. Or no shoots, if I didn't so something. Could it be a case of better late than never? It was definitely past first frost, but sadly well past a hard freeze, and long since I should have put them in the ground. The dirt in the raised bed where I had good intentions to plant the garlic was already frozen solid and singularly resistant to digging. (Oh, we tried.)

Then my husband tried the big pile of dirt leftover from a yet-unfinished project, and it turned out to be more open to shovel work, so we added a layer of soil on top of the raised bed, planted the garlic and put more dirt on top of that. I mulched the bulbs with some leaves held back for future compost, and put down mesh to keep out inquisitive squirrels and bricks to hold down the mesh.

Then I forgot about it until a few weeks ago, when rows of garlic shoots emerged to reward our sheepish December gardening efforts. They weren't the straightest rows I've ever planted, but given the degree of difficulty points, I'll give myself a pass. I don't know what role the mild winter may have played in the garlic's survival, but I'll take it. If it all works out OK, this summer I'll dig out the aioli recipes and this fall I'll put "Plant garlic" on my electronic calendar for early October.

What is the latest you've ever planted? And what garden accidents have worked out well for you?

And if you want to know how to grow garlic properly, rather than improperly like me, the fine folks at the Extension service have all the details: