Tips on how to grow garlic successfully
(Last updated October 30th, 2016)
Garlic is the heartbeat of my garden. Like a reliable old friend who never asks too much, is never over needy, and yet always takes care of you, garlic is the last thing I plant before frost, and the first thing that starts popping out of the ground after the thick blanket of snow melts under the warming spring sun. But make no mistake, growing garlic requires a strict zen like approach. Just as the Buddhist monks practice being in the here and now, the NOW is exactly what you need to perfect when planting and harvesting these beautiful bulbs. So read on and lets get the dirt on garlic!
When to Plant
It is critical that garlic not be planted too early or too late in the fall. Planting depth is also important. If planted too early or not deep enough, there is a risk that shoots will emerge above the soil surface and be prone to winter injury. If planted too late, there is a risk that cloves will not develop adequate root systems and will not be winter hardy. It is also important that cloves are planted with the pointed side up. Although cloves planted upside down will develop, they often have a curved shoot and misshapen bulbs.
My experience dictates is to harvest garlic when several of the lower leaves go brown, but when four or five on top are still green.
Depending on the weather, this typically happens in my garden come late July. However, a long cold winter, and the late arrival of spring could mean a later pick. I meditate on this every year, and every year I am rewarded with a succulent crop.
To scape or not to scape
Most of us imagine garlic as the practical and hardworking clove to punch up the flavor of any dish, however there is plenty more to be had from a garlic.
Garlic scapes are the flower bud of the garlic plant.
You want to remove the bud in late June to encourage the bulbs to thicken up. Scapes are delicious to eat. I like to use the garlic scapes when they appear a month or so after the first leaves. When the scapes are just starting to appear above the leaves, they are tender enough to eat fresh. Garlic scapes get tougher and fibrous the longer they grow requiring peeling and cooking before eating. I like to cut mine as they just appear to get the most flavor. I blend them into a pulp and use it like pesto, or as a spread on toast. Many gardeners toss their scapes, but once you taste them, tossing them out would seem like such a waste.
I love growing them and love eating them. Read my upcoming article on best way to infuse garlic into your sauces and jams that’s right make jams with garlic! Enjoy.