Did you know…
…that most of the garlic you buy in your local supermarket is imported from China? That doesn’t sound too appealing to me. When garlic is imported from foreign countries we have no way of knowing how it was grown or what was sprayed on it.
That is why now is the perfect time to plant your own garlic and grow it in an organic environment and know that what you are eating is safe and has a taste like no other.
And garlic is one of the simplest things to grow in the garden.
Go Organic and non-GMO
First you want to get an organic, GMO-free garlic from a company that operates in an organic environment. Find a company that is close to where you live. Just for your information, there are not many companies that offer organic and GMO-free garlic. So do some investigating for yourself.
The cycle of garlic is to plant in the fall (now) and harvest the following mid-July.
Instead of planting garlic seeds, you plant the cloves that you break off from the garlic bulb. Just so you know, garlic farmers often refer to the cloves as seed. But they generally mean garlic cloves.
Don’t Neglect to Prep the Soil
- First, you till or loosen the soil where you’ll be planting the garlic. Now would be a good time to amend your soil with lots of organic matter such as compost or good dehydrated cow manure. This will add some much needed nutrients and ensure your garlic gets off to a healthy start.
- After tilling the soil, dig a furrow about 4-5 inches deep, but then fill it with a couple of inches of loose dirt. That provides the prefect soil structure for the roots to get a strong start.
- Break off your cloves from the bulbs you will be planting. Place each clove with pointy tip up about 2″-3″ deep and about 4″ apart. After you have laid all your cloves in the furrow cover with soil.
- Rows should be 12″ apart. You can make them closer if you don’t have much space, but 12″ is best for adequate root growth.
- Tamp down the row of garlic lightly with your hand to ensure cloves make good contact with soil and then water in. You should start to see green shoots emerging from the soil in approximately 10 days to 2 weeks, depending on temperature and weather conditions.
Basically, you want to loosen the soil 4-5 inches so the garlic has an opportunity to develop deep roots. If you just dug a furrow 2-3 inches and planted cloves, as the roots started to develop they would run into compacted soil.
Mulch Your Garlic during the Winter
As the temperature starts to drop, gradually start to cover garlic with a mulch to keep nice and warm during the winter. A good mulch would be dried leaves, straw or even grass clippings. You want to have at least a 3-4 inch layer of mulch covering your garlic for winter protection.
Garlic stops growing during the winter months and resumes in the spring.
In Spring, Remove the Mulch and Fertilize
- As the weather warms up in spring remove the mulch. You will see the green leaves from the garlic starting to get taller as it resumes growing.
- You now can start to fertilize every 2 weeks. A great organic fertilizer to use is a liquid seaweed and fish emulsion mixture. You simply add 1 oz. of each product to a 1 gallon watering can and apply to your garlic bed, ensuring to water evenly. You can do this right up until mid June.
- As the garlic grows you will notice each plant will start to develop a seed head on a long stem. In gardening terms this is called a scape. You want to cut this scape off of the plants, cutting down as far as the stem goes. By removing the scapes you are sending more energy into the development of the actual garlic bulb that is under the soil, resulting in a larger bulb. The scapes can be used for a variety of culinary uses, so experiment.
As mid July approaches you will notice the greens of garlic will start to turn yellow to brown. When 50-75% of greens have turned to yellow/brown, it is time to harvest your garlic.
Great diligence needs to be taken when digging up your garlic or you could damage it. A pitch fork is a good tool to use for digging up garlic. Be sure to dig deep enough so you can lift the bulb out of soil. You don’t want to dig too shallow and end up bruising or cutting the garlic bulbs. Sometimes I find that getting on my hands and knees and using a smaller planting shovel works well. It just requires a little more effort but I have better control of where I’m digging.
See what works best for you. One thing you don’t want to do is to try and pull it out of the ground with your hands. The stem will break and you won’t be able to hang it for drying.
Curing and Storing Your Garlic
After you have harvested your garlic you want to get it out of the sun. Bundle or tie the garlic by it’s stems together and hang in a dry drafty shaded area. A shed or garage works well. Let garlic dry and cure for approximately 4 weeks. After it is done curing you can cut the stems down to about 2 inches and you can cut off the roots at the bottom of the bulb.
Your garlic is now ready for you to use as you wish.
Store your garlic in a dry environment. Depending on the storage conditions your garlic will last for many months to come. A root or cold cellar is ideal because usually the temperature is on the cool side thus making for perfect storage conditions.
Garlic is a very easy, low maintenance crop to grow with little to do between planting and harvesting. The reward for your efforts is a garlic that you know was grown in a healthy organic environment and will taste so different from what you buy in at the supermarket.
So go ahead and try it, you won’t regret. And now is the time…………..
David Porcaro, Associate
Comstock/Ferre Seed Company, since 1811
David Porcaro lives and gardens in Historic Wethersfield, CT. with a passion for self-sufficiency and eating whole foods that are grown in an organic and GMO-free state. He is a backyard gardener that strives to extend the gardening season as long as possible through hoop house gardening and indoor gardening as the weather dictates. In addition to being a self-employed Painter and Wallpaper Hanger, he works at Comstock/Ferre, and has the oppurtunity to pass along his valuable knowledge to others that have the same passion and desire.
Comstock, Ferre & Co. (263 Main Street, Wethersfield, CT 06109) is the oldest, continuing seed company in New England, in operation since 1811. David says, “Our mission at Comstock/Ferre is to offer pure organic GMO-free seed to the people and to do our part to help rid the industry of chemical companies that desire to control and eliminate companies like Comstock/Ferre. If we don’t do our part, our food consumption has the potential to become so toxic and dangerous to our health and well being because of the chemical companies desire to control and dictate what we consume. That’s why seed companies like Comstock/Ferre are so vital to our future well being of the seed industry.” For a free catalog or to place an order, call: 860-571-6590