Thursday, October 14, 2010

Get your garlic growing!

I love garlic.

I say it unabashedly and with pride.

It surprised me to learn that some fine chefs I deal with snicker at those who use garlic in their cooking.

Seems the taste is too overpowering.

Pshaw! (Like that one? My grandma used to say it.) Eat your garlic-so good and good for you.

And if you haven't already, now is the time to get it in.

But first, a little garlic trivia.

Garlic (Allium sativum) has two subspecies, the hardneck and softneck. The hardneck is better tasting and has bigger cloves which are easier to peel. It also produces tasty scapes in the late spring. Softneck garlics have the ability to store better and of course can be braided. But alas, no scapes from them.

Both will do better from a fall planting, producing larger cloves. Ideally, you want to plant when your soil temperature is around 50 degrees F a few inches down. A few frosts into the season should be just about right. You want your garlic to have a chance to root down a bit before the soil is frozen solid, but you don't want the greens to grow so much that they get frozen off. They will come back, but your heads won't size up quite the same.

I've found that garlic does pretty good on my clay loam. I do look for a spot that is not terribly heavy clay, and I add a good measure of compost or aged manure to my planting area.

I separate my cloves just before planting and plant with the tip up. My cloves are usually spaced around 5" apart and I leave 8 or so inches between the rows. For bigger bulbs you can space a bit further apart. I plant in trenches I have outlined with a hoe, and cover the cloves with 3-4 inches of soil.

Garlic seems to do well with a covering of mulch in the winter and I use straw for this purpose.
It can be put on immediately after planting. It helps with moderating the soil temperatures and prevents your garlic from lifting during freeze and thaw periods which seem to be all too common. It also acts as a weed barrier.

There are hundreds of varieties of garlic to choose from. I plant Music, which is one of the most widely grown and adapted in Ontario, and a hardneck. I have saved my own cloves for planting for at least 10 years.

This year I will also plant a softneck called Italian Purple. I am anxious to see how it compares.

The temperatures are definitely telling me I've got to get this chore done ensure lots of tasty eating next year. Greens, scapes and cloves- I love garlic!


Salix said...

I love my garlic too! I have tried to grow it a couple of times unsuccessfully, but this year I had a great crop. I planted a hardneck garlic last fall, purchased from Eagle Creek Farm in Alberta - and they are sooo good, juicy and tasty. I'll have to plant some of the cloves this coming week - and I will also try to plant some of the "minis" from some of the scapes that I left on. I know it will take a couple of growing seasons for them to grow into a fair size, but I have to try.

Linda said...

Thanks for your comment Lene!
I've never ordered garlic from Eagle Creek, but i get seed potato from them and it is wonderful quality. Any idea what variety of garlic you have?

Salix said...

Yes, their seed potatoes are great. Top quality and such a great selection. Over the years I have tried 11 different varieties, but this year I just grew our two favourites: Bintje and Banana fingerling. (My favorite fingerling La Ratte has not been available the last couple of years).
The garlic I grow is called 'Siberian'.