We planted so much garlic this year!
Out of all the crops that we grew this year, I think the garlic did the best. I mean, it blew our minds! Hopefully it wasn't beginners luck, or the fact that we hadn’t grown garlic in that spot before, but it was simply beautiful! We had planted three varieties last October: Metichi, Romanian Red, and Persian Star. These are all hard neck varieties, which, as we talked about in the past, means that we get garlic scapes in the spring! Garlic scapes are the flower shoot of the garlic plant, and should be harvested before the flower bulb develops to make sure that the garlic bulb gets all the nutrients and grows as large as it can. The added benefit is that garlic scapes are delicious and can be used in many different ways. From simple sautéing them in some butter till browned and softened, and serving them on top of a grilled steak, to making a pesto, or pickling them. Their uses are pretty amazing!
Garlic is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest ingredients to cook with. Not only is it delicious, and to me, is essential in a well balanced dish, but it is also highly nutritious! Studies have shown it helps regulate high cholesterol and high blood pressure, as well as aiding in the prevention of heart disease, heart attacks, and the hardening of the arteries. Some of those same studies have shown that garlic can help reduce the risk of some sorts of cancers, including stomach, prostate, lung, and breast cancer! (source, National Library of Medicine) So eat your garlic people!!
Originally from Asia, garlic is now eaten in pretty much every culture on earth, just imagine Italian food without garlic! Or Spanish food! It is now extremely widely available, and most of it is grown in China. We have all eaten this garlic, it is bland, boring, and honestly just not that great. Especially once you taste locally grown garlic from your farmers market or better yet, your own grown garlic! Which not only tastes so much better, but is much more nutritious. So get to growing your own garlic! It’s really not that hard and you don’t need a lot of space to do it. But if you do want to, now is the time!
So, you may be asking, how do I grow garlic? Simple, as is true with the majority of the plants and crops that we grow, it’s all about preparation and making sure you have great soil to grow it in. Garlic loves loose soil that’s rich in organic matter. Like I mentioned before, our garlic did so well this past growing season, that we decide to grow three times as much, which means that if all goes well, we will have 350 heads of garlic next June!
We created two beds for us to grow the garlic in, I had been adding our rabbit dropping to this bed for a few months now, as that makes amazing fertilizer and adds that organic matter that we now know is so important. When I was ready to plant, I turned these rabbit droppings into the soil with a shovel, leveled the beds and made three long trenches per bed. The spacing we use is five inches between heads of garlic, and eight inches between rows. In each row, I sprinkled some organic fertilizer and some organic compost, just the give the garlic the best start that it can get. In our area, garlic gets planted in the fall, will establish roots and maybe even shoot up a few of its first leaves, and then rest over the winter as soon as the temperature is consistently below freezing. As soon as the days lengthen and warm up in the spring, the garlic will kick back into gear and start growing again.You can plant in very early spring, if you want, but your garlic will be small, so planting in the fall is your best bet for some amazing garlic! Plus, being outside in the fall is the best!
Now that you have the beds all ready to go, you need to get your garlic seed, or better know as garlic cloves. Yes, all you need to grow a full head of garlic is one clove of garlic! However, where you get this clove is super important. Do not try to grow garlic you bought at the grocery store, this garlic is usually treated so that it won’t grow, please it will be that tasteless stuff from China, and isn’t this all about growing some badass and amazing garlic? There are two ways to get your seed garlic, one is to save some garlic from your last crop and plant that. The others to purchase seed garlic from a local farm or from one of many amazing garlic farms that sell their garlic seed over the internet. They usually sell it buy the pound, but some will sell it by the half pound. Depending on the type of garlic you want to grow, and there are a lot, you can expect to get anywhere from 40 to 100 cloves of garlic from a pound. That means that you will get 40 to 100 fully formed heads of garlic form one pound of seed garlic! Not a bad conversion rate!
Last year we bought our garlic, and this year we did a combination of the two ideas, as we wanted to grow a lot more, so we decided to buy more seed garlic, as well as use the biggest heads from this years harvest. We purchased three more varieties: Music, Russian Tzan, and a cool heirloom called Moroccan Creole. We now have six types of garlic in the ground. Very exciting! The farms that sell seed garlic will have great descriptions of the garlic, so you can choose the type you want for the garlic flavor you like. Our selection now runs from mild to fiery.
The seed garlic usually comes in whole heads, you will need to break the heads apart to get the individual cloves, and do this gently and make sure there is still some of the paper skin around the clove. Plant each clove about four inches deep, the deeper you plant, the stronger the head will be and therefore the larger. Once all the seeds are in, cover them with more compost and then cover the whole bed with a layer of mulch. We used straw. Mulching is important because it will help retain moisture for the garlic, as well as protect it and act as a weed barrier. It will also supply nutrients as it slowly breaks down over the winter and spring.
In the spring, when the garlic is small, you will need to weed. Young garlic doesn’t like to compete with weeds, so make sure the beds are weed free. We will also give the garlic a few rounds of fish emulsion in the spring and up until a month or so before harvest time. This gives the garlic a boost of nitrogen and really helps in developing healthy bulbs. So besides some weeding, which should be minor because you mulched in the fall, and some fertilizing, it’s really a low maintenance process.
As you can see, it’s rather simple! We will cover harvest, drying, and storing when the time comes, so till next year, happy garlic growing!