Dateline: 8 May 2015
(click pictures to see enlarged views)
If you click on the above picture and look closely you will see something remarkable. The yellow arrows point to two garlic plants that speared their way through a layer of plastic mulch.
Last fall, for the first time ever, I put plastic mulch over my garlic bed, marked out the planting spaces, cut the plastic with an X, and planted a clove into each X. The plastic cover shifted over the winter, so that many of the openings were not in line with the emerging garlic plants. But the growing tips made their own hole in the plastic.
It was kind of tedious planting garlic cloves in a plastic-mulched garden bed, but I wanted to have a garlic bed that I didn't have to do any weeding in. Next year, however, I may just plant the bed, then cover it with plastic. Each growing garlic can make it's own hole, and I will just cut it a little bigger once spring comes.
In years past, when I grew a LOT of garlic, I used many bales of straw for mulch. But straw is surprisingly expensive these days, and much of the straw now has herbicide in it. I found that out the hard way one year when I used it to mulch some tomato plants.
So the black plastic (with a little old straw over the top of the plastic—mostly for appearance) will do fine now. This next picture shows the garlic bed in early spring. You can hardly see the young garlic plants in the fluffed up straw...
But, before long, the garlic plants are up and showing themselves, as you can see in this next picture. They will fill the bed nicely.
Garlic does not tolerate weed competition. If you don't keep the weeds down, you will have a very disappointing harvest. Commercial garlic growers typically use herbicides to keep weeds under control. Black plastic will do for me.
Speaking of plastic for mulch, check out This Article From Growing For Market, wherein Jean-Martin Fortier reveals the six best tools for the market garden. Plastic mulch is one of the tools.