Growing Garlic, my way
As a newbie, this is more of a personal blog for future reference. I know there’s already lots of information online on how to grow garlic but the ads infiltrating most websites nowadays combined with those annoying pop-up videos making your screen scroll up and then down; it's almost impossible to keep track of what you’re reading.
So this one’s for me. This is my version and these are my pictures on how to grow garlic around here...
1. Shop Early
It doesn’t take long for local organic garlic seed to sell out quickly so once it’s available (usually late September), I waste no time in scoring my stash.
This year's Garlic Harvest included some of last year’s homegrown cloves and you can immediately tell which ones they were when harvested. Bulbs are half the size. There is a technique for processing and storing garlic bulbs that will be used as seed for the following year, but I'm not there yet.
I got real ambitious last year and mapped the garlic patch fully to scale in Auto-CAD. But, since we grow different varieties, it is the easiest way to keep track of what is planted where. Unless of course, you simply don’t care cuz garlic is garlic.
Knowing upfront how many cloves of each variety and how many holes you're gonna need is a huge benefit.
3. Soil Conditions
Garlic are heavy feeders so you want rich fertile soil to grow them in. I use a strong comfrey compost tea to feed the growing area before planting.
Apparently, I should be planting Garlic by mid-October so they are well established for winter. Good to know cause I've been planting them in November...
My template consists of an 8’ long x 6" wide plank of wood with markings every 5” on both sides making it much easier digging my holes using an upside-down hockey stick.
Don’t forget to mulch (12”) over winter.
5. Happy Dance
By mid-April, your garlic sprouts should be breaking ground. That's when a happy dance is in order especially when EVERY SINGLE planted clove is accounted for…
6. Weeding and Feeding
Garlic does not compete well with weeds so getting down and yanking unwelcome growth is a must. Additionally, Garlic requires constant moisture throughout the growing season and fed every couple of weeks.
7. Garlic Scapes
In June, your Garlic Plants will present you with its first offering; Garlic Scapes. Sauté in butter and you’ve got one helluva delicious and healthy side dish. These Scapes must be removed to maximize your garlic bulb size, so remove and consume after one or two curls; but once they’ve straightened out, you’re best to discard them.
Your Garlic is ready once the bottom 2 or 3 rows of leaves start turning brown. Timing is important. If harvested too soon, they will likely shrivel when cured, and if harvested too late they tend to be stained with exposed cloves.
Remember, you want to leave your freshly harvested garlic in the field for a couple of days to start the curing process so make sure no rain is in the forecast.
Use a garden tool to loosen soil under your garlic bulb being extremely careful not to puncture your darlings. Remove loose dirt and lay back down in its original spot (remember your map!) Use the tops to cover the bulbs of previous rows to protect from sun scalding.
Leave out in the field for 2-3 days.
...is absolutely necessary in order to decrease moisture content and increase storage life. After a couple of days on the field, label, date, and gather your plants bringing them indoors to complete curing process by laying them on these handy shelves in a well-ventilated cool room. They can also be bunched, tied and hung to dry.
Total time for curing is 3 – 4 weeks, depending size of your garlic bulb. When ready, cut down tops leaving approx. 1”, remove dry skin layers and trim off root. Use a dedicated toothbrush to remove any excess dirt.