Tuesday, October 21, 2014

IT'S TIME TO PLANT GARLIC

One of my favorite crops to grow is garlic.  Home grown  garlic is much better than store bought
in taste and is easier  to peel and process.  We grow German Hardneck garlic and as a result we
enjoy two harvests; scapes in the month of June and full heads of delicious garlic in July.
THE GARLIC PATCH IN EARLY MAY

Garlic is relatively trouble free.  There are no insect pests to speak of and there don't appear to be
any animals that like garlic.  It does involve an investment of time.  Garlic planted in October is
not ready for harvest until the following July.  An initial modest investment in seed garlic can
over a few years mushroom into a self-sufficient supply.  I started with 18 cloves the first year.
I saved twice that many closes after the first harvest for replanting in the Fall.  Now, I plant
120 cloves, more than enough to satisfy our needs.
GARLIC SCAPES IN JUNE

I had never heard of garlic scapes before I started growing my own garlic.  We now look
forward to scape season.  We make pesto, scape butter, scape spread and share scapes with
our friends and family.  I have also given heads of garlic to many gardening friends so that
they can grow their own.
HARVESTED GARLIC IN JULY

I plant my garlic cloves in mid to late October.  I will start by clearing one of last season's
fruit crop beds.  I will then add some limestone and compost to the bed and till the soil.
After raking the soil into a level bed I plant the cloves in two inch (2") deep furrows that
have been lined with a well balanced organic fertilizer such as Espoma Plant Tone.

The cloves are planted six (6) inches apart in rows that are six (6) inches apart.  This compact
alignment allows you to get a lot of production out of a modest square footage of real estate.
I just planted 120 cloves in 32 square feet of space.
A ROW OF GARLIC CLOVES

After the garlic bed is planted I surround it with a simple fence.  I then fill this space with
a bed of leaves approximately 8" thick to insulate the the soil to prevent the cloves from
being heaved by the frost.  The fence also keeps out skunks attracted by the fertilizer.
THE GARLIC PATCH READY FOR WINTER

A sure sign that Spring has arrived is the site of garlic shoots popping up through the
bed of leaves.  Once that happens, I remove the fence and the leaves.  People who see
my garden in late April and May always inquire about that lush looking bed and are
surprised to learn that it is the garlic patch.

As I mentioned previously, we harvest garlic scapes in June.  Over the  last couple of
years we have had dinner parties in June with a garlic scape theme.  In July, I harvest
the garlic heads.  I pick the thickest stocks first, giving the thinner stocks some room
to grow.  After a couple of weeks, I pick the remaining garlic.  The heads will be
trimmed of roots and the stocks will be removed.  The heads will then spend a week in the
sun to dry out a bit.  I will then wipe the garlic heads clean and store in porous containers
in a dark, well ventilated space.

At some point after the garlic heads have been in storage for a while I will then choose the
heads which will be used for  next season's garlic crop.  I look for large six clove heads as
my seed garlic.

If you have any questions or comments please feel free to send me an email.
All the best,
Greg Garnache
gcgarnache@gmail.com

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