Growing Your Own Garlic
In gardening, every plant has its prime sowing and harvesting season. Many things overlap or happen all at once, but there is a steadiness and rhythm too. Late spring and early summer brings something new to pick almost every week. By late summer, the pace quickens to daily harvesting and preserving. And by the time the garden is finished in early fall, it is time to begin thinking about planting garlic. I love that garlic gets to be planted separate from the spring rush, affording a little extra attention to be lavished.
In the Canadian prairies, the hardneck variety of garlic we grow needs to overwinter in the ground and is best planted right about now (or, two weeks ago when I originally wrote this post). Last week was spent doing just that - 150 bulbs in all, which will result in 150 heads of garlic next year! More than enough to keep us in good supply of garlic for the year and for fall replanting. I am by no means an expert on garlic growing, but here are some of the things I've learned:
- Garlic loves good, fertile soil and will be very happy if planted following a legume or nitrogen fixing crop. Our garlic was planted in a bed of freshly hauled compost where shell peas grew previously.
- Plant garlic four inches deep in well worked soil and at least one fist width apart.
- Garlic will appreciate being covered with mulch.
- Avoid growing garlic in the same place year over year to minimize disease.
- Once garlic bulbs are separated from the head, plant within twenty-four hours to prevent them from drying out.
- Ideal planting times for garlic bulbs and seed are between mid-September to early-October.
- Save and plant garlic seed every year (saved from the scapes) to keep your garlic genetics strong. It takes two years to grow a full head of garlic from seed.
- Harvest most of the garlic scapes and eat them (except those you let go to seed).
- Harvest garlic when the bottom set of leaves turns brown.
- Leaving garlic in the ground too long will cause the garlic head to crack. Cracked garlic heads will not store as long, so eat those first.
- Garlic prefers a cool, dry storage spot (we keep ours in our pantry) as opposed to a cool, damp spot - like a cold cellar
Garlic will be one of the first welcome sights of green come spring, and aside from periodic weeding, it is low maintenance until harvest time in early August. It was one of my favorite and most satisfying crops to grow, not to mention delicious!