The prime time to plant garlic in our area is right around the Thanksgiving weekend, approximately mid-October. It requires the cool fall weather to get established, sending out roots (and possibly a shoot) before the deep freeze settles in. Growing a great crop of garlic is relatively easy, and it doesn't take much space in the garden. Even if you plant a few cloves, you'll be rewarded with some juicy, fat bulbs of garlic next summer!
Here are the varieties of seed garlic available this year, with some brief planting instructions below.
Music - sweet / hot / pungent flavour; 4 - 6 large cloves per bulb
Red Russian - red clove skins; excellent flavour; 4 - 5 large cloves per bulb
Elephant - huge mild cloves
Bogatyr - strong, fiery flavour, one of the hottest; excellent flavour when roasted; 5 - 6 cloves per bulb
Duganski - fiery flavour that mellows to a rich aftertaste; 7 - 10 cloves / bulb; stores well
Metechi - spicy hot; 5 - 7 cloves per bulb; stores well
Siberian - spicy; milder when stored; 5 - 9 cloves per bulb; stores very well
HOW TO PLANT GARLIC:
Prepare the seedbed by removing any plant debris and loosening the soil with a fork.
Add a generous amount of compost or natural fertilizer (1/4 inch to 1 inch, depending on the quality / type).
Separate the bulb into cloves, taking care to keep the paper / skin of the clove intact. Plant the largest cloves from the bulb, reserving any tiny cloves to eat.
Plant the cloves with the pointed tip up (the base of the clove is where the roots grow from and they should be at the base of the planting hole). The top part of the clove should be covered with 1.5 - 2 inches of soil.
Plant the cloves about 6 - 8 inches apart from each other. They can be planted in a grid pattern to maximize the growing area.
Cover the entire planted area with a mulch of shredded leaves or fine straw. The mulch should be 2 - 4 inches thick. This mulch will moderate the soil temperature and protect the garlic from heaving out of the ground during the freeze / thaw cycles of winter and spring, and will also help prevent weeds from competing with the garlic plants.
And that's how easy it is to plant garlic! You may see some shoots from the cloves later this fall. Extreme cold may freeze them back to the ground, but new shoots will emerge in the spring and the plants will grow rapidly.
TO HARVEST GARLIC
The harvest can take place in 3 stages:
- Remove the scapes (the curly immature seed stalks) that form in June. This will encourage more growth in the bulbs. The scapes have a pleasant, mild garlicky flavour, and are excellent in pesto, stir-fry, salads, cheese balls, etc.
- Harvest some of the bulbs when they've filled out but the plant is still lush and growing. They're usually at this stage at the end of June / early July. This is "green garlic", and has the full flavour of mature garlic except that it won't store for a long time.
- Harvest the bulbs when the plant begins to die back, with 1/3 to 1/2 of the leaves turning brown. (This is usually mid- to late July, depending on the variety.) Dig the bulbs, brush off the excess dirt from the roots, and lay the plants in a single layer in an airy place for a couple weeks to dry completely. Alternately, hang them in bunches from a rafter to dry. Once they're completely dry, cut the stalk an inch or two above the garlic bulb; cut off the roots; and then peel off the outermost paper.
That's all there is to it! Your garlic should keep for 3 - 9 months (depending on variety) in a cool dark place. Enjoy the results of your efforts!