But make sure you use ‘seed garlic,’ not grocery store bulbs
Nothing ever tastes as good as something that you have grown yourself.
Even though our growing season for most things is finishing up, it is now the time to be planting your garlic.
Early to mid-fall, before the first frost, is the best time to be planting your garlic cloves so that you can harvesting them the following July. Here is what you need to know for growing garlic.
Garlic grows best in a full-sun location. This means that your plants should be receiving at a minimum of five to six hours of sunlight a day.
They prefer to grow in a light sandy soil that has been amended with compost or composted manure. With sandier soil, the bulbs will grow easily and you will have larger sized bulbs.
Adding in some type of compost will help to retain some moisture into the soil but still allow the soil to remain crumbly. A heavy clay soil will make it difficult for the bulbs to attain any size and allow excess moisture to build up, resulting in various diseases.
There are many varieties of garlic to choose from varying in size, flavour and colour. The one thing that you must not plant is any cloves that you have purchased from the grocery stores.
Most grocery store garlic bulbs have been treated with an anti-sprouting chemical to prevent the cloves from sprout prematurely. Always buy what they refer to as “seed-garlic.”
You will often find seed garlic for sale at places where they also sell fall flowering bulbs such as tulips and daffodils.
When you have purchased your seed garlic, you need to crack open the bulb to release the individual cloves for planting.
To crack a bulb, hold it in both hands, with the stem facing up. Pierce the skin with one thumb, using the other thumb to lever the stem back and forth.
Once you have removed one clove, the others will easily break off the basal root plate. It’s ideal to crack bulbs as close to the time of planting as possible.
Be sure to leave as many layers of skin (also known as “wrappers”) as possible intact on each clove. Plant each clove about two inches deep and about six inches between cloves.
Space your rows about at least one inch apart.
Plant so that the pointy end of the clove is pointing upward. Cover the cloves loosely with soil, then mulch lightly with straw or shredded tree leaves.
This will help protect the garlic for the winter and prevent the frost from heaving out the cloves. You can expect to harvest about five to 10 pounds of bulbs per 20-foot row.
The cloves you are planting now will be ready to harvest near the end of July. Check plants frequently at that time watching for the leaves to start turning brown.
If you lift the bulbs too early, when the leaves are still fully green, they will not have sized up yet. If you lift them up too late, the outer papery wrapper is more prone to tear, resulting in lower quality and poor keeping ability.
Once you have harvested the bulbs, cure the garlic in a hot, dry, dark and airy place for a few weeks. Make sure you trim back the roots and neck.
Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at joanneyoung.ca.