Growing garlic is a delicious addition to any edible garden. It is quite easy to plant and once you learn the best tricks to harvest and dry, you will be enjoying fresh garlic all year.
Buy your garlic now and choose good sized bulbs to start. Prepare your soil in September by adding compost or manure by tilling or digging into the top 6” of soil. Garlic should be planted in a location that receives full sun. Try to rotate your crop because garlic does not like to be planted in the same spot two years in a row. Weed competition is not something garlic enjoys so make sure the area is weeded before planting.
Split the bulbs into individual cloves; you can save any damaged or tiny cloves for your next meal. The cloves should be planted 2-4” deep and 6-8” apart. Aim to plant four weeks before the ground freezes; early October (Thanksgiving weekend) is a good time to start.
Cover with mulch in October/November with 2-4” of straw, leaves, grass clippings or mulch; this will help with weed control, prevent drying out and add some insulation before the snow comes.
Wait and watch from January. The cloves will sprout roots under the snow, grow through spring and reach full size in June. Water if there is a long dry spell (two or more weeks) in May or June. Pull any weeds right away that pop-up through the mulch.
Cut the scapes around July 1st. Once the scape (flower stalk that sprouts in spring) curls once around, cut or snap it off. This will direct the energy to a large bulb rather than putting the energy towards flowers and seed. Try leaving a few scapes growing to add interest to your garden; however, you will find the energy the plant uses to make scapes results in these plants having smaller garlic bulbs at harvest. You can also cook the scapes in any recipe as you would a green onion or asparagus.
Garlic matures in late July, the bottom leaves will go brown from the ground up. Once half the leaves are brown, dig up the garlic with a shovel or pitchfork. Shake off loose soil, leaving roots and stems attached and bring in from the garden. You can start to eat a few bulbs now, but they will not store well until dry.
Bring your garlic plants into an area with open air and out of the sun; a shed or covered porch works well. Tie in bundles of 10 and hang to dry, or lay flat in a layer of any type of shelf that the air will flow through. Once your plants have dried for a few days, try braiding some – this is an excellent way to store garlic and makes a unique gift for the foodies in your life. Leave for about two weeks until the stem is dry through then cut 1” above the bulb. Trim the roots, cut the stems and store in a dry spot above 10ºC (50ºF); inside a paper or mesh bag in the kitchen pantry works great.
Share and enjoy! There are endless recipes out there to add garlic to. Check out our salsa recipe!
By: Kayla-Jane Barrie