Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Growing Garlic

GARLIC is one of the easiest crops you can grow. The only tricky part is that in most regions of the country, garlic is planted in the fall for harvest the following summer. Planting should occur about four to six weeks before the ground freezes. By that time, many summer crops have already been harvested, leaving behind some free garden space. Just remember that the space where you plant garlic won't be available for another type of crop until late next summer.

Planting Garlic

In most parts of the country, late fall is the best time of year to plant garlic. The cloves establish roots before the ground freezes and when spring comes the plants are ready to charge out of the ground. Bulbs usually mature by late July.
If you're replanting garlic from your own stock, choose the biggest and best heads from last summer's harvest.
Here in Vermont it's easy to tell when the garlic should be planted. Look up at the hillsides. If they're a blaze of red, orange and yellow, it's time. Planting is fast and easy. I can plant enough garlic to last 12 months in about an hour. I might put in a few minutes weeding in early June, and I usually spend about 10 minutes cutting off the flower heads when they appear in early July. But, other than that, there's nothing to do until the heads are ready to harvest

Harvesting Garlic

DETERMINING when garlic is ready to harvest is one of the trickiest parts about growing it. If you harvest too soon the cloves will be small and underdeveloped (certainly usable but not as big and plump as possible). If you wait too long, as the heads dry the cloves will begin to separate and the head won't be tight and firm (also not a disaster, but the cloves will be more vulnerable to decay and drying out so they won't store as long).
Though it depends somewhat on the growing season and where you live, garlic is usually ready to harvest in late July. The slideshow below, with photos from my own garden, shows what to watch for. Properly curing the heads is also important and you'll see that as well.


I select and replant the biggest and best cloves each year. At this point, the cloves are almost as big as elephant garlic. When following recipes, I figure one of these cloves is equal to three regular size cloves.
A nice, dry head after 4 weeks of curing.

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