When planting garlic in the fall, follow these easy instructions, with tips from Andrea Bemis, a cookbook author and owner of Tumbleweed Farm in Oregon.

Andrea Bemis with garlic
Kate Schwager

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Not only is it easy to plant your own garlic, growing it in the garden comes with added perks. “Planting garlic in the fall is a metaphor for life,” says Andrea Bemis, a farmer and cookbook author who owns Tumbleweed Farm in Oregon’s upper Hood River Valley. “My husband and I like to joke that by the fall you’ve already had your big mistakes in the garden, so garlic is a clean slate. It gives you hope for the future.”

To plant yours, you can use garlic from the farmers’ market, but it’s best to purchase garlic bulbs online or from a local nursery, or you run the risk of introducing viruses or parasites to your garden. (Burpee.com has a good selection.) Hardneck garlic will give you garlicscapes; soft neck garlic can be braided after it dries.

Andrea Bemis at Tumbleweed Farm, where she creates recipes from her homegrown produce and posts them on her website, dishingupthedirt.com

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Because it’s a hearty plant, sowing garlic in the fall is simple; first, pick the fattest cloves, then choose a spot that gets sun and has well-drained soil. Plant your cloves pointy end up, 4 to 6 inches apart. Water if the soil is dry, but do not over-irrigate. One caveat: Be sure to get your garlic in the ground before the first hard frost.

Bemis recommends making a night of it. She likes to make a cocktail, break apart her cloves, then head out to plant.

Once you plant your garlic, you have to wait about 8 months before harvest. But that’s part of the fun, Bemis says. “Magical stuff will be happening under the dirt while you hibernate for the winter.”

When summer returns, harvest your garlic when the leaves become dry and yellow, and cure on a wire rack in a dark, warm place. Once dry, store in a paper bag. And remember, Bemis says, “Every great meal starts with a clove of garlic.”

While you wait for yours to grow, check out Bemis’s recipe, Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic, from her cookbook, Local Dirt: Seasonal Recipes for Eating Close to Home.