October 2, 2011

Planting Heirloom Garlic

SOME OF THE MANY HEIRLOOM VARIETIES OF GARLIC I AM PLANTING THIS WEEKEND. ALL ARE FROM TERRITORIAL SEED. IT'S NOT TOO LATE TO ORDER SOME RIGHT NOW, AND PLANT A ROW OR TWO.
 If you are new to vegetable gardening, it might seem odd that some crops are planted in the autumn, especially here in New England, where one associates harvest with autumn,pumpkins, gourds and apples rather than planting anything beyond bulbs....but wait, if you plant ornamental allium varieties and species, than it should not be a surprise at all to know that the proper time  to plant garlic is also the fall, for it too in indeed, an Allium. Allium sativum

 Garlic is currently one of those stylish crops, stylish in a sense that hip farmers markets now carry countless varieties of heirloom garlics, and festivals abound in the late summer just after the garlic harvest in August.  I have resisted growing garlic for no particular reason other than perhaps that when it comes time to order garlic, I prefer to spend my money on other bulbs. I also rarely think of garlic until spring when I see garlic scape's in other peoples gardens ( like my brothers), and then I kick myself for not planting it.
GARLIC MUST BE ORDERED IN THE LATE SUMMER, AND IS BEST PLANTED BETWEEN OCTOBER 1 AND NOVEMBER 15 IN MOST NORTHERN US ZONES.

 Being a passionate foodie and cook, as well as a lifelong gardener, it's about time the I grow garlic, and folks like most things I do, I am not jumping in with a little splash - I am growing many varieties of heirloom garlic, some from Spain, Portugal, Russia, Germany, Poland and the Ukraine. There are three things I do love about garlic in the garden, the first being their flowers - long graceful necks with a gooseneck bud that hangs gracefully down, it makes any cottage garden look more "cottagy". Second, these buds are also delicious to eat in stir fry's. At Whole Foods, they are a seasonal treat that I rarely can afford, so since they need to be cut off anyway, BAM! I get two great reasons for garlic in the garden. Third reason is simple, I love garlic. And NOTHING compares to garlic when it is fresh, especially when you can choose from many types of garlic that you will never find in a market.

There are two types of garlic, Hardneck type which has a stiff 'neck' or dried stem, and it typically has very large cloves, then there is Softneck - the sore you typically get at the supermarket. You can plant supermarket garlic too, but don't expect good results since most commercial garlic is grown in China or California, and most has been treated with a sprout inhibitor, which will cause even sprouting cloves to eventually weaken and die.

CLOVES MUST BE SEPARATED BEFORE PLANTING, AND 3 or 4 HEADS WILL GIVE YOU A BOWL FULL OF CLOVES, OR ABOUT 35 - 45.
 Garlic is fun to grow, and the flavor from home-grown garlic will surprise you, depending on the variety, it can be fiery and hot, or intensely sweet. Either way, if you LOVE garlic, you will NEVER buy store bought garlic again.
PLANT CLOVES TWO INCHES DEEP AND 6 - 8 INCHES APART. ROWS CAN BE 8 INCHES APART IF YOU PLANT IN A GRID, WHICH IS FINE IN A SMALL RAISED BED. COVER CLOVES WITH SOIL AND WATER WELL - THE GOAL IS TO STIMULATE THE CLOVES ( BULBS) TO START TO PRODUCE ROOTS BEFORE IT SNOWS.

 Once the bed is planted, it is recommended to cover the bed in mid to late November with 6-12 inches of straw before the first snow. The straw is removed once growth begins in late winter, pine needles could also be used since once growth begins, this mulch will be removed in the spring.
Since I have a "terrier problem", I used the now cleaned cucumber trellising to discourage unnecessary snuffling and digging from our furry friends, until they forget that I showed some interest in the raised beds. 

Here is a shot of the Brunsvigia bosmaniae mentioned in y previous post. After a cool, rainy weekend, it is starting to fade. It does look like the honey bees were successful in pollinating the rare plant, and in a pot next to this, some seedlings from last years bloom are emerging.

4 comments :

  1. Hi Matt...love your garlic info and pictures. I wish I were a neighbor of yours so I could watch and learn. I love your attention to detail. Like how you are using a guide to make sure that your lines are perfectly straight. I LOVE that.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Just what I did this past Sunday, well prepped the ground anyway, but didn't get to put the cloves in. I just push the cloves in and back-fill. Last spring I pulled up 48 heads and I plan on planting 64 cloves this week.

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  3. Hey Keith, that's all I do, really. The soil is soft enough that I can usually draw a line with a trowel, and use my fingers to shove the cloves in deep.

    Erin, That "measuring guide" is just an old bamboo pole that I grabbed from the tomato bed, so not that fussy, really!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I love cooking with garlic and so I started growing it annually about 6 years ago. I soon discovered that growing garlic is not only a wonderful asset for my kitchen, it also repels a variety of pesky bugs.

    So, I now grow my garlic around the periphery of my veggie garden and all my other vegetables benefit as well.

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