Garlic is easy to grow since most of its time in the ground is during our rainy season and, after you mulch it for winter, can pretty much be ignored.
About the time the scapes (flowers) begin to develop in spring, the weeds start to grow and need to be removed as garlic does not develop well with all that competition. Have you ever eaten garlic scapes? Since you have to remove them when they begin to curl, you might as well cook them. Grilled or sautéed, they have a nice, mild garlic flavor. Just use the tender part as you would asparagus and they store in the fridge at least a month.
Back to the garlic bulb, here are the basics. We sell 2 types of garlic – hardneck & softneck. Hardneck garlic usually has larger cloves, which are easier to peel, but they don’t store a tremendously long time. Softneck garlic has a larger quantity of smaller cloves, they’re a bit harder to peel, but they keep a long time. These are also the ones you can braid & hang in your kitchen. I usually plant both types, using the hard necks first.
Garlic is planted in the fall. Separate the cloves but you don’t need to remove the papery skin around each clove. Plant, pointy end up, within 5 days, at a depth about double the size of the clove. Deeper if you’re in a very cold location. Water-in and moisten frequently till the rain starts. Once the soil cools off, mulch with a few inches of rice straw. That’s it for fall.
When the soil begins to warm in spring, watch for the growing tips. (Sometimes they’ll start in the fall if you plant early and the soil is still warm.) Cover with more straw to protect from frost – you may need to do this 3-4 times. This is also the best way to keep the weeds down.
Harvest when about ½ the leaves turn yellow or brown. This usually happens in my yard about the end of June, but this year its about 2 weeks later. Stop watering so the soil can dry a little. Don’t leave them in the ground too long after you stop watering as the papery skin will start to deteriorate and the bulbs won’t store as well. Try not to poke them with your digging fork as this can introduce disease and again, affects storage.
Place them in a cool, darkish location to cure, usually about a month. We have a huge, low-limbed butternut that shelters our garlic. If curing outside, be prepared to cover your garlic with plastic if it rains. It seems like it always rains once in July, after we’ve harvested. If you want to taste your garlic while its still green, you can, just not with Elephant Garlic. Once cured, keep in a cool, dry location, inside. Yes, garlic freezes and turns to mush.
Enjoy your garlic. Not only does it taste good, but it’s good for you!
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