Planting Garlic with a Garlic Master

A scene of Eden, Utah. Photo courtesy of Lizzy Totterer.

Garlic Farm-to-Table

Nestled in the hills of Eden, Utah, family-owned-and-operated Sandhill Farms grows a wide variety of garlic, as well as fresh produce and herbs for individuals and local restaurants.

They have grown over 30 different varieties of rare, gourmet and heirloom garlic from around the world.

We will plant about 1,000 pounds of garlic. This equates to about 5,000 heads of garlic, 35,000 individual cloves and 35,000 heads in 2018.
Pete Rasmussen, Sandhill Farms

Pete Rasmussen KUED

Sandhill Farms prides itself on the long-term fertility of its soil by using organic growing methods. The use of any chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides is strictly prohibited.

We had the opportunity to join Pete Rasmussen, known as Farmer Pete, during Sandhill Farms' volunteering day. We learned all about garlic and how to plant it and we share it with you here!

Garlic Planting Prep - "Popping Garlic"

grow garlic like a pro preping Copyright of KUED

The process of breaking apart garlic bulbs into individual cloves is what Farmer Pete calls "garlic popping". It's the individual cloves that you will plant in the ground.

Leaving as much of the papery sheath around the clove as you can help protect the clove as it grows during the winter. The very small cloves, toward the center of the bulb, are separated out and won't be planted.

And when your a garlic farm that plants over 30,000 garlic bulbs, that's a lot a popping to do.

What is Seed Garlic?

Seed Garlic Copyright KUED

Seed garlic is typically selected by choosing the largest, healthiest bulbs of garlic that are harvested from the previous crop. Planting the largest cloves, usually on the outside of the bulb, helps to ensure a healthy garlic bulb will grow.

Bulb size diversity is important. With certain varieties, smaller bulbs store longer than larger bulbs.

Seed garlic-growing garlic like a pro copy right of KUE

Preparing the Soil For Garlic Planting

"Rolling Dibbler"

grow garlic like a pro copyright of KUED

Rolling Dibbler Copyright KUED

A dibber, or dibbler, is an ancient gardening tool, basically a wooden stick for making holes in the ground for planting seeds.

Planting Garlic Like a Pro

When putting garlic cloves in the ground, make sure the pointed end is up and the and basal plate, or root-end, is pointed down.

You can hold the garlic clove in your fingers and push it in the hole up to your knuckles, or about 2 - 4 inches deep.

grow garlic like a pro copy right of KUED

The soil was prepared and treated with organic fertilizer beforehand so pushing the garlic into the ground is easy.

Volunteer planting clove Copyright KUED

Pro Tip: Sandhill Farms plants their garlic with the more bulbous, convex side facing south. This way, when the garlic begins to grow and sprout its leaves in the spring, all the leaves are uniformly facing in the same general direction helping to maximize the amount of sun each plant receives.

When to plant and Harvest Garlic

Garlic is normally planted in October and November depending on fall temperatures. Garlic takes approximately 8-9 months to develop and ripen. Once put in the ground in fall, it will lay dormant during the cold winter months protected by nutrient-rich soil.

There is something comforting in knowing that each resilient, tiny clove of garlic is patiently waiting and storing energy only to burst into action come spring and multiply, budding into a bulb with a dozen or more cloves.

You can harvest your garlic in June or July.

Don't Be Shy, Garlic Farmers are the Nicest People

Volunteering with Sandhill Farms is a special treat. It's a great way to escape the city, welcome fall, and learn how to plant garlic like a pro.

If you want to reach out to them about their upcoming events and volunteer days you can message them here or on their awesome Instagram feed.


Modern Gardener's Ashley feeding a cute cow. Copy right of KUED
Modern Gardener's Ashley feeding a cute cow. Copy right of KUED


What is Black Garlic?

At the end of the day, Pete shared a rare treat with us, black garlic. Each volunteer broke off a clove and nibbled on this little-known treat that tasted more like candy than garlic.

Originating in China, this time-intensive method of preparing raw garlic is considered a delicacy. Unfortunately, we didn't get a photo of the black garlic, we were too wrapped up in enjoying the moment.

A Little About Farmer Pete and Sandhill Farms

Pete Rasmussen is passionate and erudite regarding garlic, both on the farming of garlic, as well as its nutritional properties and the different ways it is cultivated and used around the world. You will surely learn a lot about garlic when volunteering.

He has been growing garlic for over ten years. At the age of 22, he began cultivating the 2-acres his parents’ house sits on in Eden, Utah. What started as his back-yard farm, has since become Sandhill Farms. Today he farms on ten acres of land from a 19th-century dairy farm named Sunnyfield Farm.

While they do grow a variety of fruits and vegetables, Sandhill Farms’ specialty is garlic. This October and November the farm is expecting to plant seven varieties. But according to Farmer Pete, they are always fine-tuning and trying new varieties.

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If you live in Utah and have a garden or garden project that you'd like to be featured on Modern Gardener, click here!

Ashley Swansong

Modern Gardener Host and Author

Ashley works for KUED Channel 7 as a digital producer and host of Modern Gardener. She loves gardening and is excited to share what she's learned from her own garden!Read more

Alaynia Winter

KUED Production Intern

Alaynia Winter earned a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from University of Utah. A member of student media in college, she wrote for Wasatch Magazine, University of Utah's outdoor lifestyle magazine. When not gardening, Alaynia spends time with her very spoiled dog.Read more

Pete Rasmussen

Pete Rasmussen KUED

Pete Rasmussen grew up on the Olympic Peninsula before his parents relocated to Eden, Utah. He attended University of California – Santa Cruz where he became involved in the art of agriculture and sustainable farming. Pete worked closely with UCSC’s Center of Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems research farm....Read more