Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Simply Garlic

Onions, Leeks, and Garlic: A Handbook for Gardeners (W. L. Moody Jr. Natural History Series)Growing Great Garlic: The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small FarmersThe Complete Book of Garlic: A Guide for Gardeners, Growers, and Serious CooksGrowing and Using Garlic: Storey Country Wisdom Bulletin A-183

Harvest time is here; the aroma of homemade spaghetti sauce permeates the home. It is made with care, using only the freshest ingredients: basil, peppers, tomatoes, onions and dried up, flavorless garlic, imported from California or China. You can do better than that.

Nothing is simpler or less labor intensive to grow than garlic. It doesn’t require large spaces or tender loving care to be happy. You do need to acquire your bulbs now. Waiting until late September or early October will leave you disappointed. Start looking for your bulbs now. Farmers markets or local growers are a good starting point. They are harvesting their crops now and should have a surplus. Mail order and on-line seed suppliers are another good choice. I have my best production with the hard neck varieties of Siberian and German Extra Hardy. Polish Softneck is also a good choice. When you have acquired your bulbs, the hardest part is over.

In October, sometime around or shortly after Columbus Day, turn off the football game and go out to your garden area. Spade up your selected spot, about three feet wide and 10 feet long. This will allow you plenty of space for one pound of cloves. I like to plant mine in a border, around the area that I plan to put cabbage and broccoli in next spring. This seems to help confuse Cabbage Butterflies. Separate your cloves, plant each clove blunt end down, pointy end up, four inches apart and two inches deep. You can plant in rows or whatever pattern you desire. Garlic doesn’t care, as long as it is spaced properly. Cover the cloves as you plant them. Add some compost or organic fertilizers to the top of your bed at this time. By Thanksgiving, you should see new garlic sprouts emerging. When the ground freezes for the first time, throw about two inches of straw on top of your plants. Now; the next step is to leave them alone; until spring. Garlic plants may have a growth spurt if there is a warm period in January. Do not add additional straw to top them off at this time. You will smother the plants. I learned this the hard way.

Your plants will start growing quickly; when the daffodils start shooting up. Carefully rake the straw from your plants. Don’t worry about frost, it will not hurt your plants. They may look ugly for a few days, but they will recover finely. When the tops reach a height of around ten inches, sprinkle a couple of hands full of blood meal around your plants. Do this again in late May and just leave them alone. This is real time consuming, isn’t it?

During mid to late July, you will notice your leaves beginning to turn yellow. When the top two or three leaves turn brown, it is harvest time. Do not try to pull your plants. Dig up the individual bulbs. Rinse off any excess dirt, hang the entire plant in a shaded area, with air circulation. Do not try to dry the plants in direct sunlight. I dry mine in a gazebo, hanging from the rafters. When the foliage is brown and dry; cut it off. Leave about one inch of stem and snip off the roots at the base. You will have all the fresh garlic you will need. Store the excess in paper bags, in your refrigerator crisper. Keep some to plant for next years crop. The excess will store well for four to six months.

This was simple and not very time consuming wasn’t it? Enjoy.

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