Tuesday, October 14, 2014

It's Time to Plant the Garlic....

It’s Garlic time!! I know last year when I blogged about garlic you said – “Next year, I’m planting garlic!” (Maybe you didn’t say it out loud, but I’m sure your subconscious was screaming it!) 

So, this is the year to do it. Yes, I know garlic is pretty cheap at the grocery store, but….have you ever tasted fresh garlic? If you’re buying it at the store than the answer to that question is NO! If you’re a garlic lover, I promise that once you taste the difference you’ll be planting it by the gardenful.

But this year, if you’ve never grown garlic before, you can start small. Just buy one extra head of garlic. (This will produce 4-20 garlic plants depending on the size of the bulb.) You can either buy it at the store (yawn) or you can buy heirloom garlic from some of the companies that sell it like Landreth Seeds. If you’re a local-yokel, don’t miss Landreth’s Heirloom bulb sale THIS SATURDAY in New Freedom at their old location. They’ll have gorgeous rare heirloom bulbs and dozens of varieties of heirloom garlic!

Garlic is a bulb, so it’s as simple to grow as a tulip. You could even grow it in your flower beds. Those of you who live in neighborhoods with rules about gardens, can plant garlic and pretend it’s a daffodil that never bloomed! Here’s how easy it is to grow garlic.

Now, when ordering your garlic you’ll need to choose between –

Hard neck – This garlic has a long flowering stem (scape) that grows through the center of the bulb. The garlic forms a single layer of evenly shaped cloves, usually between 4 and 12.

Soft neck – This garlic has a greater number of cloves and usually a larger bulb altogether. They are irregularly shaped and layered all over each other with anywhere between 8 and 25 cloves (there are a few crazy mutant varieties that upwards of 30 cloves!).

Hard necks grow better in colder climates, but I’ve grown both kinds successfully here in south central PA. I tend to go for about half soft necks and half hard necks. I like a good crop of scapes to cook with when I’m impatiently waiting for my garlic. (Even if you don’t cook your scapes – cut them down or your garlic will put its energies into flowering instead of growing yummy cloves.) You do get a better bang for your buck with soft necks, but hard neck cloves are usually much larger which makes up for there being fewer of them.

Hard necks have a stronger flavor – more spicy. So if you’re a garlic-nut like me – you’ll want to plant plenty of them. Soft necks supposedly store longer, but I have yet to plant enough garlic to test out that theory.

Whatever kind of garlic you plant, you’ll want to do it soon. Ideally well before the first hard frost, but after the really hot weather has ended (if you live around here, that would be NOW).

So, all of you, even those of you who claim you aren’t gardeners, get your hands on some garlic and get it in the ground. Now. Don’t think – plant.

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