It’s nearly time. Not quite yet, but between mid and late October I plant my Garlic.
Garlic is better planted when the soil has cooled, and loves a warm sunny spot.
This year I am growing three kinds of garlic…
It is a Mid-season garlic. Music hits the top of the charts when it comes to yields and has out-produced all others!
White skinned with just a blush of pink, this garlic makes big cloves that are easy to peel.
The taste is a medium hot, true garlic flavor that lasts for a long time. Music will store 9 months to a year, and is very cold tolerant.
Russian Red has a strong garlic flavor and a warm sweet aftertaste. Averages about 6 to 8 cloves per bulb. This variety has the ability to withstand soggy winter soils much better than others.
This variety is heirloom type brought to British Columbia by Doukhobor immigrants from Russia in early 1900’s. Rocamboles are considered by many as being the best tasting of all the garlic, they have a thin skin around the cloves which is very easy to peel.
A soft-neck variety, Portuguese garlic is definitely a favorite variety of the grower, for its robust and rich flavor.
This rich full bodied garlic fits anywhere a garlic flavor is desired. Bold flavored and superb in taste, add its garlic greatness to a variety of culinary creations.
This is one I have never tried before, but one of my customers brought me a head and told me that it was amazing and I needed to plant it. So I am. It looks delicious, I must say. Nice big cloves, with a firm feel and a nice strong odor.
Garlic Types to Try:
Softneck types grow best where winters are mild, though some tolerate cold to Zone 5. Most varieties do not produce scapes (edible curled flower stalks), but softnecks are great for braiding. Subtypes include Creole, artichoke and many Asian varieties.
Hardneck types adapt to cold winter climates, and all produce delicious curled scapes in early summer. Popular subtypes include porcelain, purple stripe and rocambole varieties.
Elephant garlic produces a large, mild-flavored bulb comprised of four to six big cloves. Closely related to leeks, elephant garlic is hardy to Zone 5 if given deep winter mulch.
Garlic is best planted in full sun, in a bed about three feet wide. The soil should be well drained, and dug to a depth of at least 10 inches deep, then raked to a smooth, level surface. Draw out furrows of about 3 inches deep across the bed with the corner of a hoe. Leave about 6 inches between the rows. Throw a good handful of bone-meal in each of your holes, this will encourage root growth, which is of course what you want…Push single cloves into the furrows, about 6 inches apart, until the tips are barely visible, then draw in the ridges of soil from the furrows over the planted cloves to a depth of two inches.
Planted early, garlic may show a few points of green growth the same fall (which is why I wait, it just gives the deer one more thing to munch on). In regions where snow cover comes and goes, mulch the garlic bed just before the first hard freeze. A layer of dry leaves (4 inches) is enough to keep the earth from freezing and thawing repeatedly.
Very early the following spring, garlic’s broad blue-green leaves begin to grow solidly and by the end of May will reach a surprising height. Insects aren’t interested in garlic plants, and spring rains are often enough to see them through to maturity.
A double yield: Garlic scapes in June…
In mid-June, curly green pigtails emerge from the center of each plant. These are the scapes, hard stalks topped with tiny bulbils. All experts agree that it’s best to nip garlic in the bud, as it were, snapping off the scapes after they have made a loop or two, to send more energy to the developing bulbs. The scapes’ tender tops (as opposed to the hard fibrous bottom portion) are loaded with flavor. Peel and thinly slice them and add to most anything you cook for a garlic flavor.
Not only is Garlic widely used in many dishes but it is also reported that with regular use garlic helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels as well as blood pressure. An interesting tip for all gardeners is that, like other members of the onion family, garlic is reputed to keep insects and fungal diseases at bay. By growing clumps of garlic throughout your garden you may be able to ward off some common problems like aphids.
Harvesting and Storing Garlic
From early summer to midsummer, watch plants closely and pull them when about one-third of the leaves appear pale and withered. Use a digging fork to loosen the soil before pulling the plants. Handle the newly pulled bulbs delicately to avoid bruising them. Lay the whole plants out to dry in a warm, airy spot that is protected from rain and direct sun. After a week or so, brush off soil from the bulbs with your hands, and use pruning shears to clip roots to half an inch long. Wait another week before clipping off the stems of hardneck varieties or trimming and braiding softnecks into clusters. Do not remove the papery outer wrappers, as these inhibit sprouting and protect the cloves from rotting.
I find Garlic to be one of the most gratifying things in my garden…mostly because I use it in everything I cook, and I just love the flavor that home grown garlic has compared to store bought. It is also pretty low maintenance. Once it’s planted you just have to wait til July to dig it up, so patience is a virtue, as well as some extra space in the garden that you won’t miss during the growing season.