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.
How to Grow Garlic
These instructions are based on my experience living in a Zone 5 climate. Your garlic mileage may vary…
- Go to the Farmers’ Market and buy a big bag of the firmest, largest organic garlic you can find. I bought mine from the Mennonites since I know they grow it themselves. My theory — If the farmer grows it in your area, you can, too. Living in a northern climate hard-neck garlic is your best choice. You can’t braid it, but that just saves you some trouble. (If you live in a warmer climate, you’ll probably grow soft-neck garlic. Braid it and send me photos to make me feel inadequate.)
- In the fall, mid-October is good, plant the garlic in a spot that gets full sun. I planted the garlic amidst my rose bushes. The garlic keeps aphids away (but does nothing for saw flies). I’m not sure if the roses provide anything in return except a bit of colour.
- Separate the individual cloves of garlic and plant them four to six inches deep with the pointed end facing up. To do this, I plunged my hori hori knife into the ground up to the hilt, rocked it back and forth to form a hole and pushed a clove into the hole with my index finger. I then covered the area with mulch.
- Ignore the garlic.
- In spring, remove the scapes (hard-neck garlic has scapes, soft-neck doesn’t) while they are still curly. This forces the garlic bulbs to grow bigger.
- Ignore the garlic until it turns brown and looks dead. At this point it’s ready to harvest.
- Loosen the ground around the bulb with a gardening fork and pull the garlic straight up by its stem.
- Take photos and show them to anyone who will give you the time of day.
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.