Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Garlic Time!

Now is the time to plant if you’d like to grow your own fresh garlic! And you should because fresh garlic runs circles around the aged stuff you find in the store. Plus it's easy to grow an entire year's worth in a few feet of garden space that won't be doing anything else this winter. Why not tuck some in your flower beds when you clear them off for winter? If you plant it now, it will be ready by early June. Garlic is easy to grow – just as simple as planting bulbs. All you need is a head of garlic.
I like to experiment with heirloom varieties, but you can use any old head, even the one beginning to sprout in your cupboard right now. All you do is break off each clove and plant it pointy side up. You’ll want to plant it as deep as it is big, or a little deeper. I tend to err on the side of too deep when planting just in case the winter is worse than imagined.

The garlic will be one of the first green things poking its leaves up through the ground as soon as spring hits. When the leaves begin to brown and fall over, it’s ready to harvest. Around here that's late June.
 Pull the garlic up, shake off the dirt (don’t wash it).
Hang or braid it to dry and cure. It needs about two weeks in a warm, humid, dark space. My barn rafters at the height of summer work well for me. (Don't notice the sloppy braiding, or do notice and realize that you're not after aesthetics, you're after function.) After two weeks, I hang the garlic in my basement where it lasts nearly until the next summer unless I run out!
Fresh, home grown garlic is much stronger than the stuff you get at the store – you’ve been warned. I love garlic, can’t get enough of it, so the strength of homegrown garlic suits me just fine. This year I harvested some elephant garlic (see pic below). I'm not impressed with its mild flavor. I like garlic with a bit more punch. I'm still searching for the perfect purpose for the elephants now hanging in my basement.

You can also plant shallots and spring onions now. Follow the same procedure as the garlic. The onions should be ready in time for Easter. As long at their leaves are green you can leave them be and let them get bigger. I pull them as I need them.

Locals - Landreth Seed Company (the oldest heirloom Seed Company in the US) is having their annual bulb sale THIS WEEKEND (October 19 & 20, 9am-4pm both days). There will be plenty of garlic for sale, plus bulbs you've never seen anywhere else. Don't miss it! Non-locals - you can order from Landreth online.


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