Growing Great Garlic
Growing garlic is very satisfying. Simply to be able to harvest your garlic for cooking is such a great feeling. I've always thought it would make a great appetizer for a dinner party to oven roast a bunch of different varieties and taste test them with a baguette and a glass of wine. Then you could languish over the subtleties of flavours of Mexican Purple, Rocambole or Metechi. You may just find that you don't need to pick one favourite; that having a variety is much more fun. Garlic is very easy to grow so if you haven't tried growing garlic before, make this the year you do.
Fall is the very best time to plant garlic. I say "very" best because you can still plant in the spring if you missed out on fall planting, but planting in autumn will give your garlic the optimal timing for growing.
Choose a sunny part of your garden that has good drainage as you don't want your garlic standing in water through the winter. You will still need to be able to supplement water in the summer, or your garlic will not size up as well as it should. If your garden is always wet in the winter, and you haven't been able to correct the drainage you may have more luck with spring planting.
Prepare your garlic bed with lime to adjust the pH, kelp meal, bone meal and/or rock phosphate to build big bulbs as wells as some soil amendments like compost or manure for the overall health of each plant.
The best time to plant your bulbs is in late September through October. Separate each clove from the bulb keeping the skin on the clove. Plant each clove with the pointy tip up about 2 inches deep and about 6 inches apart.
From planting time to harvesting time at the end of July, you can pretty much rest other than keeping your garlic patch clear of weeds. However, we do find that just as your garlic begins to grow again in the spring a shot of organic fertilizer like liquid Fish or Liquid Kelp really kicks up the size of your garlic bulbs. (Most of you have heard me sing the praises of Liquid Kelp before so I'll just leave it at that and if you have questions please drop by and we can fill you in.)
Next summer watch for the delicious garlic scapes to form in midsummer. Remove these and sauté them and serve with pasta. These curly tips are the flower stalks, and if not removed they can reduce the potential size of your growing garlic bulbs as the plant will put their energy into forming flowers we are not interested in.
Harvest time is July to early August. Gauge your harvest time by your garlic tops. Your garlic tops will start to change from green to yellow or brown, and they are ready to harvest when the tops are 2/3rds brown. Withhold watering for a week or two before you harvest.
To cure, place your harvested garlic, with the tops still on, in trays making sure each bulb has airspace around it out of the sun and the rain. Your bulbs will cure in about two weeks. If you prefer, you can hang your garlic to cure it also out of the rain and direct sun. I like to photograph my harvest with the variety tags, so I can easily refer to how the varieties compared.
To store your garlic, wipe the dirt from the bulbs with your hands, trim the tops to a couple of inches and place in cardboard boxes. Choose a cool, dry and dark location much like you store your potatoes and onions.
So whether you are a first-time gardener or a seasoned garlic aficionado let's get planting.
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