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The Joys of Late-Planted Overwintering Crops: Garlic and Fava Beans

Fall in the garden can be a time of letting go and slowing down. After a spring and summer full of preparing, seeding, weeding, planting, fertilizing, watering and caring for our plants, growers often find themselves doing less and less of those tasks as the temperatures cool down and the days get shorter. And as we enjoy the fall harvests, collect seeds and clear out spent plants, we’re often opening space in the garden. Garlic and fava beans can be great crops to sow in those open areas of your fall garden!


  • Garlic grows wonderfully in our maritime northwest climate! Sown in the fall, with exposure to a period of cool weather, garlic usually begins to grow the following year and is ready to harvest in spring.
  • Buying “seed garlic” from nurseries or seed companies is a great way to be sure that you’re growing disease-free garlic! You can also save your own or connect with another gardener to plant from healthy heads.
  • To sow garlic, separate individual cloves from the head, taking care to keep the protective papery layers intact around them.
  • Plant the cloves pointy side up, about two times the size of each clove (usually about 2” down) and spaced about 6-8 inches apart from each other.
  • Cover the garlic with 3-4 inches of mulch – fall leaf litter and straw are great choices that will both help suppress weeds, provide insulation and are loose enough to allow garlic to easily grow through.
  • You can rest easy, knowing that once your cloves are sown and mulched, you can let it be through the winter!
  • In the spring, as the daylight returns and temperatures are increasing, you can side-dress the shoots with a well-balanced, dry organic fertilizer. You can also opt to give them a little liquid fertilizer a second time in the late spring.
  • Garlic is ready to harvest when the lowest 2-3 sets of leaves are brown and dry – enjoy!

Fava Beans

  • Fava beans also grow wonderfully in our climate as a fall-sown, overwintering crop.
  • Seed fava beans directly in the garden about 4-8” apart from each other anytime in October through early November.
  • While fava beans are very cold hardy, it can be helpful to add a couple of inches of mulch between the plants to help insulate them from icy temperatures and to reduce weed pressure.
  • Plants can grow 2-5’ tall and the bean pods are typically mature in May.
  • For fresh shelling beans, harvest when the pods are green and plump with beans. For dry beans, wait for the pods to dry out and turn brown.

October and early November are also great times to plant shallots, onion sets, bulbing flowers, and cover crops. Along with garlic and fava beans, these seeds and bulbs that we start in the fall help us to let go of one season and look forward to the next. Here’s to a restful fall & winter season, and garden treats in spring!