Saving Lettuce Seeds from your own garden

Saving lettuce seeds is a great place to start learning to save your own seeds.  This post will show you just how easy it is to save your own lettuce seeds.

Saving Lettuce Seeds

Saving seeds can be a complicated, but also very fun and rewarding gardening skill to learn.


Today I want to talk about saving lettuce seeds.

Saving lettuce seeds is actually one of the easier seed saving projects. If you are interested in saving seeds I would suggest that saving lettuce seeds is a great place to start. Lettuce was one of the first plants I learned to save seeds from.

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I few years back a friend of mine gave me some seeds for a great little red leaf lettuce. He didn’t know the name, just that they loved it. So in his honor we call the lettuce Larry’s red. I’ve lost contact with Larry since moving so I’ve also lost my source for seeds, I knew this was an heirloom variety so I had to learn how to save my own seeds. I’ve been able to keep this variety alive and growing in my garden now for 7 seasons by saving my own seeds every few years.

In this post I’m going to cover 3 aspects of savings lettuce seeds:

First how lettuce plants produce seeds, Second cross pollination concerns and how to deal with them, and third how and when to harvest and clean your lettuce seeds.

How Lettuce Plants Produce Seeds

The first step in saving lettuce seeds is understanding how lettuce plants produce seeds. One of the keys is to understand timing. A lettuce plant will bolt to seed as the days get longer and hotter in early to mid summer.


Bolting is a term used in gardening to describe the process of a plant developing a seed head (or flower). Not all vegetables bolt. If a vegetable produces a fruit (think, tomatoes, squash, melons) then the seeds develop in the fruit. But if the vegetable is one that doesn’t produce a fruit, then when it develops a flower head we call that “Bolting”. Lettuce is one of those plants that bolt.

The main trigger for lettuce plants to bolt is lengthening day light. The added heat of approaching summer is also a trigger to the plant to bolt. That is something to keep in mind if you are planning on saving lettuce seeds. It is best done in the spring and summer as it is much less likely that your lettuce plants will bolt when growing them in the fall and winter months.

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2016 was my year for saving lettuce seeds from Larry’s Red. So here is a great picture of the early stages of bolting in my Larry’s Red lettuce. You can see the lettuce plant changes shape and starts forming this long stalk that will eventually flower.

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Here’s a shot of one of the same plants later in the year, you can see a few of the little yellow flowers but for the most part this plant has finish flowering and the seeds are developing. Lettuce seeds develop a “feather” after flowering (kind of like a dandelion). Lettuce plants also are very irregular at flowering. You will see flowers developing on the plant over a period as long as 6 weeks with some types. Seeds are ready around 3 weeks after the flowering so you may need to harvest several times.

Lettuce is Self Fertile

Lettuce plants can be 100% self fertile. This means no insect pollination is required, which will come in handy when we talk about cross pollination issues later. For most varieties of lettuce the flower opens for just one day. With some varieties the flower may only be open for as little as 30 minutes. Once the flower has closed you will see development of the feather and then you know the seeds are on their way.

Cross Pollination Issues when savings lettuce seeds

Cross pollination is really not a huge deal with lettuce. There is a very small chance (5% according to the book Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth) that the lettuce flowers will be cross pollinated by insects. But many commercial growers (again according to Ashworth) believe cross pollination does not occur at all with lettuce plants. So to be honest, I really don’t worry to much about it.

But if you are concerned about cross pollination of your lettuce plants there are 3 methods you can use to prevent it.


The first and easiest method of preventing cross pollination of lettuce seeds is to only let one type of lettuce go to seed each year. This is the method I practice. Lettuce seeds if stored in a cool, dark place will last 3 to 5 years. So just set up your timing so that you only let one variety go to seed each season. Then there is ZERO chance of cross pollination.


If you grow too many varieties of lettuce to use the timing method then the second method is distance. The minium distance between flowering plants should be 12 feet but 25 or more would be better. So plan out your garden and lettuce plantings to allow for some space between plants to prevent cross pollination


The third method is to cover the plant with a wire cage (think something like a tomato cage) and to then completely cover the cage with a fabric row cover material. You then put this cage over the plant just before it starts to flower and leave it in place until the plant has finished flowering. The cage and material prevents any insects from getting access to the flowers.

Harvesting your Lettuce seeds

Harvesting is actually quite simple. Often it is as easy as putting the plant inside a paper grocery bag and giving it a shake!

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I like to be a bit more precise with it. Just get a small container and sit by the plant and find all the mature seed heads. Then just take that head between your fingers and rub a bit and the seeds break free and fall into the container.

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When you are harvesting the seeds you will also get a lot of the feathers and even seed heads. I like to spread the seeds out on a white paper plate (the white plate helps me see the seeds vs. the other junk).

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To winnow the seeds stir everything up really good and then gently blow across the surface of the seeds to blow off any feathers. Repeat this several times. Now you only have seeds and seed head parts. I then just take a pair of tweezers and pick out the other left over parts. That is usually good enough for us home gardeners, we really don’t need to have the seeds perfectly clean like a commercial grower would.

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I like to store my seeds in an envelope and then I put them in my seed box (Learn more about it here) and I keep the seed box in the coolest and darkest part of my basement. If you have room you can also store your seeds in your refrigerator.

Other considerations

How long it takes for saving lettuce seeds

This whole process actually takes a few months. March was the planting date for the lettuce I saved seeds this year. Most of the seeds I harvested were ready in late August. So from start to finish we were 6 months. Keep that in mind for you planning.

Production Volume

One lettuce plant doesn’t produce a ton of seeds, unless you are very careful when you harvest. So you should consider letting several plants go to seed if you are planning on having a supply of seeds that lasts for 3 years.

Can you Eat the lettuce?

You can harvest leaves from the lettuce plants you plan on harvesting seeds from before they bolt. Just not all of them. Harvest leaves from a leaf lettuce varieties but be sure not to harvest too heavily. Leave romain, head or butter head varieties without harvesting. So plan on growing some extra plants when you are going to be saving lettuce seeds.

Open Pollinated (heirloom) vs. Hybrid Plants

One other thing to keep in mind. It’s important that you know the difference between open pollinated and hybrid seeds. YOU CANNOT SAVE SEEDS FROM A HYBRID PLANT VARIETY. Find out before you save the seeds from any lettuce if it is an open pollinated variety. To learn more about Open pollinated plants vs. Hybrid plants please go read this great post by my friend . . .

A Great Resource for learning more

I love the book Seed to Seed by Suzanne Ashworth(affiliate link). If you want to learn more about seed saving this book is an excellent resource!

Well there you have it. Saving lettuce seeds is a easy and a fun way to get started saving your own seeds.

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Un-Affordable Health Care Act and a Gardener

The Un-Affordable Health Care Act and a Gardener

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Before I begin this post let me apologize to my regular readers for varying so much from my regular gardening, urban homesteading and DIY posts. But something arrived in the mail this week that I have been stewing on for days and I just can’t keep quiet about it any more!!  This is after all a gardening blog so it’s not often I delve into politics.  I will admit I’m a little nervous to post this.  But I think the discussion will be beneficial to anyone striving for self sufficiency.

I am self employed.  Health Insurance is 100% my responsibility!  It has been for 15 years.  5 years ago the costs of a “traditional” health insurance plan became to expensive for us to pay so we had to switch to a high deductible plan with a Health Savings Account.

A high deductible plan basically means we are covered if something MAJOR happens, cancer, heart problems, a major accident.  We also get one visit to the doctor each year as preventive care for free.

Beyond that ANY TIME that we go to the doctor, we pay 100% and it applies to our $3000 per person deductible.  When we signed up for this plan it cost us right around $500 per month.  But that was way better than the $1200 we were going to have to pay. The $700 savings each month more than covered the few doctor visits we had to make each year.

Flash forward 5 years to this week.  We received a notice from our insurance company (that pays for almost nothing remember, we are a healthy family).  The letter told us that our monthly rate (that had already slowly crept up to $738) will be $956, starting January 1, 2017.  That represents a 30% increase in our rates this year and nearly a 100% increase in just 5 years.

Remember, this plan pays for NOTHING!!

The two visits last year for our younger kids to the doctor for a sickness.  $130 each – We paid that!!

The ER visit with our teenage son for treatment of a head injury from a basketball game.  $750 dollars, guess who paid that . . .  yes again US!

Or how about the visit to a sports medicine doctor ($350).   And 4 visits to a physical therapist for work on our sons leg after a track injury for $50 a piece?  Yes, again we paid for that!

In fact we have found that some doctors will give us a better rate if we just ignore the insurance all together and pay cash. (see the incredibly cheap rate we paid the physical therapist).

To help put this all into perspective, effective January 1st we will be paying more for our health insurance than we pay for OUR HOUSE PAYMENT!  Or put another way, we will pay $256 more per month than we pay for groceries to feed our family of 6!


I haven’t been to the doctor for 6 years, why?  Because I can’t afford it!  Of course we take our kids when they are really sick.  No amount of money would make us risk our kids health or well being.  But my wife and I just tough it out!

The Un-Affordable Health Care Act has FAILED! 

Why in this election year are we so focused on “locker room talk” and “deleted emails” while stuff like this is happening to hard working American families.  I can’t even fathom what self employed individuals who choose to stay on a “traditional” plan are having to pay!

We don’t make a ton of money!  We have two small businesses (a bookkeeping firm and our blog & video course business).  Some years we do pretty well, other years (depending on market conditions) we don’t do all that great.  On those slow years we have sufficient for our needs and that’s about it.  During those slow years, this new insurance rate will represent 25% of our income!!  Yep ¼ of our income will go to pay for insurance we never use but have to have in case of a disaster (and because the powers that be have told us so).

I’m sure I will have people ask, in those slow years why don’t you turn to and get a supplemented plan? Or put your kids on Medicare?  My answer;  taking care of my family is my wife and I’s responsibility NOT THE GOVERNMENTS.  I will get a second (or 3rd) job before I let Uncle Sam take care of me!  Period, end of argument!  These programs, in my view, are meant to help those who truly can’t help themselves.  I will be darned if I’m going to take a government supplement because I’ve having a slow year!

So what needs to be done???

We need to take the handcuffs off the market and allow a free market system and competition to return to the health insurance industry.

My family represents almost zero risk to our insurance company.  We have no health issues at all.  No family history of major health problems.  We exercise every day, watch our weight and eat better than 95% of the country.  Insurance companies should be breaking down our door to offer us competitive rates to get us in their “pool”.  Instead I’m forced to struggle paying almost $1000 a month for basically NOTHING.

We the American people have allowed this garbage to go on for too long!  I call on all of us to get this idiotic campaign out of our way. Then we need to drive our house and senate representatives CRAZY!  Until they get this fixed and allow the free market to function again!!  There is much “broken” in the health insurance industry, but we were better off before Obama Care!  Let’s at least get back to that stage and then move forward!

I’m interested to hear about how much you are paying for your health insurance.  Without disclosing too much personal information I would love to know what type of plan you have and how much you are paying?  Please comment below! 

I’d also love to hear from folks that have opted to not have health insurance and instead pay the stupid tax penalty?  How are you functioning without insurance? 

Give me your suggestions for us “little people” to get some changes made?

Okay, rant over . . . I think I will go sit in my garden for a few hours and eat some tomatoes!!

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Tips for Storing Potatoes all Winter Long

Storing potatoes properly is an important part of our gardening. We grow a lot of potatoes (some years over 250 pounds) so it is important that we keep those potatoes lasting as long as possible in our winter storage.

Storing Potatoes

I’m going to cover a few of the basics of potato storage first and then we will talk about several different methods for storing potatoes and which will be the most successful for long term storage.

What to look for when storing potatoes


Light is the enemy of tasty potatoes. Exposure to light will cause the skins of your potatoes to turn “green”. The green is actually chlorophyll that comes from the potatoes reaction to light. The chlorophyll really isn’t the problem though, the problem is the toxin solanine. Solanine is an alkaloid that builds up in the skins of potatoes, the build up increases the longer the potatoes are exposed to light. Solanine is actually poisonous and can cause illness or in very very extreme cases death. You can of course avoid most of the solanine in a potato by cutting away the green, but solanine causes a bitter taste and should be avoided.

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So the solution is to store your potatoes in complete darkness! Even low levels of light will eventually cause your potatoes to go green, so what ever option you choose for storing your potatoes it needs to be as dark as possible!!


Storing potatoes in a cool spot is the most important consideration. Potatoes will last longer if they are stored at temperatures that stay consistently between 40 and 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Even a little below 40 degrees is okay, just be sure they don’t freeze. The cooler your storage spot, the longer your potatoes will go before they start to sprout.


Potatoes will last longer with higher humidity. Storing potatoes at a humidity level of 95% would be ideal. Of course that is often hard to achieve, but the more humid the better. But be careful. There is a difference between humid and wet. You don’t want your storage area (or your potatoes) to be wet, that will promote mold and rot.

Air Circulation

You are not sealing your potatoes in a vault!! When storing potatoes be sure that where ever you are storing them in (boxes, baskets, etc.) have plenty of air circulation. If you are using cardboard boxes for storage then cut some holes in them to allow excess moisture to escape.

Storing Potatoes – Options

There are a lot of options and ideas out there for storing potatoes. I’m going to talk about a few and provide you with some links to learn more about each option. Just keep in mind that the more dark, cool and humid your storage location is the longer the potatoes will last.

Root Cellars

A good old fashion root cellar is probably the best option for storing potatoes! With plenty of room, dark and cool they can be the perfect spot for potato storage. Rodents and other pests can be a problem in root cellars so be sure to have a plan for dealing with them.

Improvised Root Cellars

We love our window well root cellar! You can read more about it here. It’s just one of the window wells on the east side of our house that is in the shade most of the winter. It provides is great access (from the window in the basement) and is a cool spot to store all winter. Since we started using this option we have increase the storage time of our potatoes an additional 3 months!

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We keep our potatoes in these plastic laundry baskets and then cover the baskets with burlap and an old sleeping bag. That keeps out the light and adds some insulation for extra cold nights.

If your home doesn’t have a basement and instead just has a crawl space this can be another great cool, dark option for an improvised root cellar. It is a bit harder to control humidity in a crawl space, but it can still be a great option.

A Cold Garage

If you have a garage that is cool (but doesn’t freeze) during the winter this can be another good option. Remember that things need to be dark, so in a garage you may need to plan on covering your potato containers with burlap or an old blanket to exclude the light.

A cool spot in your basement

For years this was the option we used. We had a cold storage area in our basement where we would store our potatoes. The biggest problem we found here was it was never really cool enough. Temperatures only got down to the low 60’s and high 50’s so our potatoes would start sprouting after only 2 or 3 months.

A garbage can buried in the garden

I’ve always thought this was a great idea. The concept is you get a large garbage can and bury it just below the surface of your garden, you put the potatoes inside put the lid on and then cover the lid with soil, or straw or even leaves.

The biggest disadvantage I see to this method is convenience. We get a lot of snow in the winter (and rain). So traipsing out to the garden several times a week really isn’t the easiest way!

Here’s a link to a post I found that talks more about this method.

Storing Potatoes 2

Remember where and how you store your potatoes is super important. When property stored potatoes can last over 6 months in storage, giving you a great fresh vegetable option all winter long!


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Year Round Gardening Series #4 – More cold frame crops

Continuing our discussion on cold frame crops from our last post in the Year Round Gardening Series today we will talk more about what to grow in the winter garden.

Cold Frame Crops YRG#4

5 More Cold Frame Crops


Carrots are the one of the high lights of the cold frame crops.  We always choose a smaller variety as they just don’t have as much time to develop.  Little finger is a local favorite that we have used the last 8 years with great success.  Little Finger Carrots only get about 4 or 5 inches long but seem to have the time to size up in the fall.

Cold Frame Crops -1

Most of the growing your carrots will do will be done by early November so you need to be sure to get them in and water them well in early August.  Elliot Coleman calls winter carrots “candy carrots” you will understand why when you pull one from the cold frame in January and take a bite.  The cold causes the starches in the carrots to turn to sugars and they are fantastic!!!  Some people question why I would take up space in the cold frame for carrots when you can just cover them up in the outside garden and accomplish the same thing.  My response to that is they are so much easier to harvest from the cold frame because it is very rare that the ground actually freezes.


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Most people are not familiar with this European green.  Also know as Corn Salad or Lamb’s Leaf, Mache is a great addition to late winter and spring salads.  It has a nutty flavor and goes well mixed into a lettuce salad or as a stand alone salad.  The plants are pretty small so you need to plant a lot of it.  Mache is truly a winter green, it actually won’t even germinate until the temperatures drops to the 60’s.  It is super hardy and can be a staple from the cold frame.  We usually plant this in September in the shadow of other plants, as we harvest the lettuce and other greens the Mache then takes off.  This is one of the few plants that will actually put on growth during the winter.  (You can find seeds here – Affiliate Link)



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This one is also know as miners lettuce and is native to California.  The winter of 2011 was the first time we have grown this salad ingredient.  It is supposed to be super winter hardy and it is another to of the very few plants that will continue to grow even when the sun light drops under 10 hours.  We liked the taste of claytonia but it’s not a big yielding plant.  You would need to plant a lot of this for it to mean much.(Buy Claytonia seeds here – Affiliate Link)



Cold Frame Crops -4

Kale is super hardy, delicious and very good for you.  The biggest problem I have with kale is its size.  It is pretty hard to fit a full grown kale plant in a 12 inch high cold frame, although I have tried.  If you plan on growing kale you will need to make room for it in a taller hoop house as the plants can get 2 to 3 feet high.  If you don’t have the space for it under protection plant some anyways outside in the garden.  We have found kale lasts well into December even with out protection.  In fact last year we harvested some leaves as late as about January 10th.  The outside leaves on the plant were gone but as we dug around the debris we were able to find a meals worth of leaves still growing strong under the snow.



The list of Cold Frame crops totals about 30 different crops.  Included in the list are arugula, dandelion, escarole, mizuna, parsley, green onions and mustard and turnip greens.  Leeks and shallots can also be protected by a cold frame or hoop house and be harvested all winter.  We don’t have a lot of experience with most of these crops so I won’t drone on about them.  We have tried arugula, parsley and turnip greens and had decent success but we didn’t like them enough to continue to give them space in our cold frames.  If you have had experience with any of these crops and would like to write me about it I would love to feature your article as a guest post here on Stoney Acres.


Next time we will talk about the when you should be planting

Would you like to learn more about year round gardening?  Well the best place to get started is by taking our Year Round Gardening video course!  Follow the link below to start learning!

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October Planting Guide – 6 crops you SHOULD plant in October

As the weather cools and you start putting your garden to bed for the winter use this October planting guide to get a few seeds in your garden for spring harvest.

October Planting Guide

As you read this post, please keep in mind that this October Planting Guide is intended for those of us living in USDA Zones 4 to 7. Also you should know that anything you are planting in October in cold winter climates will be planted for SPRING harvest. You won’t be seeing any harvests until early spring or later.

October Planting Guide

So what should you be planting in October in your backyard garden.


The first crop in our October planting guide is garlic! Fall is the perfect time to plant your garlic. Garlic planted in the fall will grow stronger, healthier and larger bulbs next summer. By planting in the fall you get a huge head start in the spring. In fact in my opinion, if you didn’t get your garlic planted in the fall then don’t bother until next season!

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Garlic is best planted a week or 2 after your first expected fall frost (notice I said expected, not actual). For us that means we are planting around October 15th. But if you have missed that date already, all is not lost. You can plant garlic right up until the day before your ground freezes. In fact one year I planted as late as November 5 (5 weeks after our first frost date) and still had a great crop the following summer.

To learn more about planting garlic in the fall please check out this growing guide!


Like garlic, shallots are often best planted in the fall. They are not quite as cold hardy as garlic so those of you in Zone 4 or lower may have some trouble, but for most of us planting shallots at the same time as garlic means a great crop of shallots in the late spring next year. I also recommend for both shallots and garlic that you cover the beds with a nice layer of mulch to help insulate the ground from the worst of winters cold.

You can learn more about growing shallots by reading this growing guide.


Corn Salad or Mache is a little known salad green that grows very well in cool and even cold weather. Mache is one of only 2 crops I know of (claytonia being the second) that will continue to grow when we have less than 10 hours of day light in our gardens.

In fact Mache loves growing this time of year and germinates better in temperatures around 65 degrees in the day time. So October is the perfect time to plant.

October Planting Guide 5

Newly planted Mache is hardy enough that it can survive being unprotected in the garden over the winter.  BUT it will do much better and grow much quicker with the protection of a cold frame or hoop house.

Mache planted in October should germinate before the super cold weather comes and then will slowly grow in your hoop house and will be ready to start eating in February!!
Order Mache Seeds here (Affiliate Link)


Kale planted in October will be ready to start harvesting leaves in early spring. It will likely germinate some time this month and then will sit quietly over the winter in your hoop house. Once the 10 hour days return in February, it will start growing again for a very early harvest!


Next on the October planting guide is spinach. If you choose to plant spinach in October you are for sure planning for the future. October planted spinach will likely germinate late in the month and possibly get one or two “true leaves” before the cold sets in. If protected by a hoop house or cold frame you will find the spinach grows slowly while we have less than 10 hours of day light. Once the sunshine returns in February these tiny plants will take off.  Giving you your earliest (and longest) spinach harvest ever!


Number 6 on the October Planting guide is lettuce. Lettuce is not nearly as hardy as the other crops listed above. But small, newly germinated lettuce plants are actually quite hardy. Planted now the seeds will germinate and grow just a little.

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Protect them with a cold frame and when things start to warm up in early spring these plants will burst into production with a very early crop!

Flower bulbs

This one may seem a little strange, but flowering bulbs like tulips, daffodils, crocus and others make a colorful addition to your spring vegetable garden. Although not eatable, they will provide flowers to attract early emerging pollinators to your garden. (and hopefully encourage them to stick around!!) So plant a few bulbs in your garden while you are filling your flower beds.

October Planting Guide 3

Other greens

There are several other greens that, like lettuce, are not the hardiest plants, but their smaller versions will survive the winter with the protection of a cold frame. Some of these greens include arugula, endive, radicio, dandelion, beets, turnips or even radishes. Again you will be planting these for overwintering in the cold frame and for spring harvest.

I hope this October planting guide gets you thinking as you are cleaning up your garden this month. Look around and find some places to plant some of these over wintering crops. Now is also the perfect time to consider building a simple cold frame or hoop house to protect crops over the winter and to give your spring crops a head start!

Questions? Please leave them in the comments below.

Would you like to learn more about Year Round Gardening? Then please consider buying a copy of my on-line Year Round Gardening video course by following the link below!

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Planting Garlic in the Fall in your backyard garden

Early to mid Fall is the perfect time for planting garlic. Garlic planted in the Fall almost always does better than spring planted garlic.

Planting Garlic in the Fall

Planting garlic in the spring in most areas produces small bulbs that contain even smaller cloves. There just isn’t enough time for spring planted garlic to get established and growing before the heat of summer arrives.

Planting Garlic in the Fall

Planting garlic in mid fall allows the garlic cloves you plant some time to get established before the cold weather sets in. Fall planting also means that your garlic is able to start growing in the spring very early! Most years I see the first shoots of my fall planted garlic poking out of the soil as early as mid February. Having your garlic in the ground in the fall means the plants will have 6 or more weeks head start.

There are many differing opinions on when you should get you garlic planted. Many growers suggest getting your garlic in as soon as possible. Others say you should wait until just before the ground freezes.

Timing for planting garlic

Here’s the schedule I have settled on. I plant my garlic about two weeks after my average first frost date. But well before we have had any hard freezes that would cause the ground to freeze. So for me here in my zone 5b garden that means I plant garlic right around October 15th.  Notice I said 2 weeks after my AVERAGE first frost date, I don’t actually wait for my first frost, instead I plant based on the first expected frost date which for us is about October 1st.

Technically you can begin planting garlic any time after the weather really starts to cool off (when temperatures in the day start settling in the 60s). And you really have up until the ground freezes. If you are reading this post a little later in the year then don’t worry too much.  As long as your ground hasn’t frozen you are still okay to plant your garlic.

I really like that mid point of two weeks after your first frost date. (Remember this is the average first frost date for your area. Not the actual first frost date).  That time of the year is after the weather has cooled, but before the ground has frozen.  So figure out that date for your area and use it as your target.

How to plant garlic

Planting garlic is simple, just select the largest cloves in a bulb of garlic. Gently remove the cloves from the bulb. Larger cloves mean larger healthier plants

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You plant garlic bulbs pointy side up and about 2 to 3 inches deep. The “pointy side” is the side from the top of the bulb, opposite from where the roots were growing.

Planting Garlic 3

I made this little stick with a 2 inch line on it that I use to gauge the correct planting depth while planting garlic. It’s handy to have!

Spacing should be around 8 inches in all directions. Garlic does well planted in patches instead of rows. Just keep the spacing to around 6 to 8 inches so the plants have plenty of room to grow.

If you live in an area with extreme winter cold it would also be a good idea to cover your garlic patch with some type of mulch. Straw, leaves or even grass clippings will help insulate the ground and prevent frost heave from disturbing your bulbs.

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Also don’t forget to amend your soil before you plant.  A few inches of compost mixed into the soil will help your crop out in the spring!

Where to get garlic cloves to plant

You have 4 options for getting your garlic “seed” (the cloves you plant):

Seed growers

Either online, from a catalog or from your local nursery.  There are many sources out there for ordering garlic.  Try to order early so you are sure your favorite grower has the varieties you want!

Save your own seed

This is the method I use. You can save your own seed garlic by selecting the largest cloves from this years harvest and planting them. After as little as 3 years selecting only the largest and healthiest cloves you will have your own locally adapted variety!!  Garlic is very good at becoming adapted to your very specific growing conditions, so by saving your own cloves for planting in the fall you can build your own health variants of many popular varieties.

Planting Garlic 5

Farmers Markets

Find a variety you really like from one of your local farmers, then buy some extra garlic to plant in your garden.  Again remember to select on the largest and healthiest looking cloves.

The grocery store

You can even choose your favorite garlic from the grocery store and plant it. I really don’t recommend this method for a few reasons, first you have no idea what you are getting. Second, commercially produced garlic is often treated with chemicals that are meant to prevent sprouting. Third, the part of the bulb where the roots are attached are often cut very close. This can damage the cloves keeping them from ever sprouting.

Having said all this I do know folks that have great success planting garlic from a store.
Garlic is one of the easiest and most carefree vegetables to grow in your garden. Just plant it in the fall and water when needed in the spring. That along with a little weeding is all you need to grow a great crop of home grown garlic.

For more info on growing garlic in your garden you can check out these other great Stoney Acres Posts:

When to Harvest Garlic (Video)

How to Cure and Store Garlic (Video)

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Year Round Gardening Series #3 – Cold Frame Crops – Greens

In part three of our winter gardening series let’s talk about cold frame crops.

Cold Frame Crops

The crops that I will talk about in this post and in post #4 of the series are what I consider the “base” crops to grow in your cold frames.  There are actually close to 30 different crops, but the 8 in these two posts will take up the majority of the space in your cold frames and hoop houses.


Cold Frame Crops

Lettuce does well in cold frames until mid December


Most varieties of lettuce will do great in the cold frames.  There are some growers that focus on some extra cold hardy varieties, Johnny Seeds has several.  The variety Winter Density is specifically bread to grow well in the winter!

Don’t bother with head lettuce, it will never get done before the real cold hits.  But leaf, bib and even romaines or cos types will do very well.  Be prepared to harvest all your lettuce as soon as the really cold weather sets in.  Even under protection lettuce won’t hold up all winter, when the temps drop into the low 20’s you will start to lose the outside leaves and eventually the whole plant.

Those 20’s usually show up for us in early December, so we harvest the entire plants at that time and store them in a tight container in the fridge.  That usually keeps for another month, so we have lettuce until Christmas.  Last year a friend of mine was able to keep lettuce growing well all winter in a hoop house where he added bottles of water for supplemental heat.  We are going to experiment with that this year so I will report on the progress as the winter approaches.

Cold Frame Crops - Spinach


We love fresh spinach in our winter salads.  Most varieties seem to do well, we are trying a new type this year that is different than we have used in the past.  Bloomsdale has a little larger leaves and should be a bit more cold hardy.  January is the toughest month for winter gardens and spinach is one of the few crops that we are still able to harvest at that time.

Be sure to go easy on the harvest in the coldest months.  Leave a few green leaves on each plant so that they can build energy in the spring and start growing again.  You will find your fall planted, over wintered spinach will take off growing again in early spring and give you a second fantastic harvest until May!

Cold Frame Crops - Swiss Chard

Swiss Chard

We are big fans of Swiss Chard and it is one of the most productive cold frame crops.  One year we planted 5 four foot rows and we were over whelmed.  We had so much that we picked at it all winter and spring and eventually pulled out the plants and feed them to the chickens to make room for summer crops.  Chard is good as an additional ingredient in salads and is great if you like cooked greens.  We also enjoy eating the celery like stalks in the summer, but we have found that the plants never get a chance to grow big enough for good stalks in the winter; we mostly just grow it for the greens.


Cold Frame Crops - Sorrel


Sorrel is one of the more exotic cold frame crops.  You can see our sorrel growing on the right edge of this bed.  Sorrel is a perennial plant and we have decided to treat it as such.  The plants you see here were planted as starts way back in February and have been providing greens for us since May.  This year we should have some sorrel all winter.  Sorrel is similar to spinach in texture but has a very distinct lemony flavor.  It is a great addition to salads.  Sorrel can also be use more like an herb in soups, fish or chicken dishes.


Cold Frame Crops - Pac Choy

Chinese Cabbages

Another one of the great cold frame crops is Pac Choy.  We love Pac Choy (aka Bak Choy) for stir fries.  The smaller leaves are also good in salads.  We plant Pac Choy from starts in September; the plants love the cool fall weather and usually last well into November.

Chinese cabbages are a fall plant, the cool temperatures and lessening light make these plants grow big and tasty.  We have never had much success with them any other time of the year. A friend tells me this is because the increasing light of spring triggers the plants to bolt.  To be honest we have always eaten ours up by November.  So I’m not sure how well they do over the winter. I have read of people having success planting and harvesting them as baby salad greens in the winter but I have never tried.  We have also had success with Tatsoi as well, which is another Chinese cabbage.

I will continue our cold frame crops discussion in Part four in our winter gardening series! Follow this link to learn more!


Would you like to learn more about growing a year round garden?  Our Year Round Gardening video course is the perfect way to learn how to turn  your garden into a 365 day a year growing machine!!  Start learning now by following the link below!

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