How to Grow Your Own Garlic

garlic harvest-1

30 Jul How to Grow Your Own Garlic

A friend has a theory that my family is part vampire. We are unnaturally pale and live a very, very long time. I am about to disprove this theory. I don’t shrink at the sight of garlic. In fact, I grow it.

This is garlic straight from my garden. It’s shaggy and covered in dirt. Not at all like the pristine white bulbs you find in the supermarket.  It hasn’t been trimmed or cleaned yet. I wanted you to see what it looked like straight from the earth.

I started growing garlic a few years ago because the only option at the supermarket was spongy, bitter bulbs from 10,000+ kms away. I haven’t looked back. And as with most things, I keep learning as I go. There are lots of  articles on the internet telling you how to grow garlic in great detail. I’m sure they produce perfect results and if I’d read them before starting, I probably wouldn’t have ended up with small bulbs– like the one on the right.

Most of my bulbs are like the one on the left. The few small ones, however, demonstrate the wisdom of removing the scapes. I missed a few and this is the result. Apparently, with the scape left to its own devices, much of the plant’s energy goes into producing a showy flower and not the bulb. See…

However, even the small bulbs are impressive. To give you some context, this is how big most of my garlic grew. Okay, I have small hands, but they aren’t that small.

So, what’s my secret to amazing garlic? A green thumb? No. Perfect soil? No. Neglect.

Seriously, I did absolutely nothing to this garlic except plant it in a sunny spot. No fertilizer, no bone meal. I didn’t even water it. Not once. And we’re having a drought. I did mulch the crop, but I do that for all my gardens. And no, I don’t live in a warm part of the world where we have an extended growing season. I live in Southern Ontario — Zone 5 for the garden-savvy. We get harsh winters and yet, the garlic thrived.

The rosemary I pamper like a wounded puppy? Dead.

And that’s about it. Once the garlic has dried for a day, I’ll clean it off and store it in a dry, dark place, which just happens to be my clothes closet. Small house. Big garlic yield. Sleeping with my garlic stash should put the vampire theory to rest.

Do you grow garlic? If so, what type do you grow and do you have any tips? If you don’t grow garlic, what’s stopping you? A black thumb? Lack of space? Feel free to share links (relevant, of course) in the comments section.


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  • Diane Hewat
    Posted at 08:57h, 30 July Reply

    What part of garlic is the scrapes?

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 09:57h, 30 July Reply

      The scape is the part of the garlic that will, if left in tact, grow into a flower. Here is an article about harvesting and cooking scapes.

      Scapes grow on hard-neck garlic only.

    • James
      Posted at 03:33h, 20 August Reply

      As a small garlic grower, we are right in the midst of garlic scape madness!I, too, remove the pod as I had read that it tastes bitter.For our scape pesto, we use either pistachios, pignoli, almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts. We don’t even use basil as the scapes themselves take the place of both garlic and basil as they are so fresh and green.I whir the scapes, nuts and olive oil in the food processor, and then add freshly-grated romano cheese by hand so that we have a nice chunky consistency.Add sea salt to taste.Our favorite pasta salad is pesto over rotini, with cherry tomatoes, served at room temp.Also, I chop the scapes and freeze them, then make pesto in the middle of winter! LOVE IT!

      • Charmian Christie
        Posted at 11:23h, 23 August Reply

        I’ve made garlic scape pesto, too. Thanks for weighing in on this. Sorry it took so long to reply. Your comment ended up in my overzealous spam filter.

  • Brian
    Posted at 12:07h, 11 August Reply

    Thanks for this encouraging post, Charmian … a friend in Napanee who moved recently had his whole crop wiped out by something that came with the bulbs … so you do have to be careful about your source. Doug is very knowledgeable, and grows a 1/4 acre each year. His homemade garlic powder is potent stuff and “to die for!”

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 14:47h, 11 August Reply

      How horrid! I planted garlic bulbs sold for culinary use. I got them from the Farmers’ Market from an organic stall. Since they looked healthy, I figured they were good stock. I’ve done this for a few years and never had an issue with the garlic, but it’s good to be reminded that nothing is guaranteed. Thanks for sharing.

      I’ve never made garlic powder but might give it a try this year. I have a dehydrator and that sounds like something it can handle!

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