Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Around the Yard: Growing 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!

Linked to Outdoor Wednesday, Real Food Wednesday, WFMW, Health2Day, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter Thursday, Fresh Bites Friday, Living Well, Fight Back Friday, Harvest Monday, Barn Hop, Garden Tuesday, Bloomin' Tuesday.


Abby said...

Good tips! Roasted garlic has to be one of my top 5 favorite foods. I could eat it straight from the bulb!

Shanon Hilton said...

Thanks Abby. I couldn't agree more. You can *never* have too much garlic on hand!

Emily Sunwell said...

Shanon your garlic looks AMAZING! I love roasted garlic too, so yummy. Thanks for sharing :)

Ubermom said...

I also love garlic and how easy it to grow but I have to admit that I have planted in the same area too much and destroyed it. It pays to be more mindful when gardening. Thanks for all the great tips and the photos look amazing!

Herbalmomma said...

I planted mine last week. Along with another round of cold weather crops. I am experimenting to see how late I can plant and harvest before things go dormant. Another part of the trial is to see which ones that survive will over winter and come back in the spring. :) Here is hoping!!

Shanon Hilton said...

Thanks Emily. :)

Herbalmomma. We, too, are experimenting with cold weather crops. I definitely should have planted my arugula sooner! I plan to seed spinach this fall for an early spinach crop come spring - if all goes well! And maybe some of the greens we have planted now will start growing again come spring too - that would be fantastic!

Anonymous said...

The first year I grew garlic it did not go so well. We live at the beach and our soil can be challenging but we are trying again this year....we made a few changes so I will have to keep everyone posted. Beautiful pictures and I truly can it resonates with me your thoughts on living a sustainable lifestyle.

Shanon Hilton said...

While I have never actually tried it, our local garlic grower told me that you can grow garlic in containers. If your soil is giving you trouble, maybe giving container growing a try!

Thanks so much for your comments.

Kelly said...

Thank you for posting these tips. I just planted my first batch of garlic the other day and can't wait to see how that goes.

Shanon Hilton said...

Oh, congratulations! You're gonna love it!

kitsapFG said...

Garlic is such a staple in the garden and the kitchen and there is something really pleasurable about being able to plant it when the rest of the garden is ramping down in production. I planted our garlic this past Sunday and then had to use lots of garlic in that evenings meal to celebrate. :D

Jilly said...

Garlic pays to be more mindful when gardening. Thanks for all the great tips and the photos look amazing!
I am new in gardening work.
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Pam said...

Thanks for linking up go Garden Tuesday! I've been wanting to try my hand at growing garlic for quite some time.

Lynn said...

This is my first year for growing garlic. I am hoping it turns out! Thanks for the tips.