Planting garlic can be done in the fall or spring
Garlic out of the garden is just like anything else harvested at home, better than anything out of the store. Garlic is planted through the fall, usually starting in October until the ground freezes. That's how I've been most successful in growing the bulbs, but it can be started in the spring. The only difference is that spring-planted garlic is ready a little later than the fall-sown bulbs.
The first step is to start with the right garlic. It needs to be hardy for your area, so farmers' markets, local nurseries and garlic farms will sell you the right thing. Most of the grocery store garlic isn’t hardy and is treated to retard sprouting.
Once you have the right garlic, separate the head into cloves. Plant the biggest cloves three inches deep, six inches apart in good soil. I save the smaller cloves for the kitchen. A bulb auger is the perfect tool for making the planting holes. It's a big drill bit that fits on any electric drill and makes the job much easier.
It's important to put a thick layer of straw over the bed. It acts as a blanket for the bulbs and will keep weeds at bay. Root crops like garlic don't want competition from other plants like weeds.
Garlic growers get four harvests, not just one.
The first happens early in the spring when the greens sprout. They can be harvested lightly ... remember the greens provide energy for the bulbs. But those early fat little sprouts, sharing their show with the crocus as a signal of the start of the season, are delicious.
In early June, a seed head called a scape will emerge. It must be removed so the bulb can reach its potential. They are a delicacy. I make pesto out of them and also love to cook them on the grill.
I leave some of those scapes in the garden. Even though they are no longer attached to the plant, the seed head will continue to swell and grow little bulbils that are a clone of the bulb.
When more than 50 percent of the greens turn brown in July, it’s time to harvest the bulbs. They can be pulled out or gently coaxed with a garden fork. If you’re growing bulbs to store all winter, they will need to be cured in a warm dry place for three weeks. Garlic lasts longer if the stalks are left attached.
There’s nothing like garlic from the garden. The fresh stuff is filled with oils that will make any recipe special. I even know a gardener who eats raw cloves out in his garden, guess who?
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