Sunday, 15 September 2013

How to Grow Really Great Garlic!

Here we are at prime time garlic planting time. One of my favourite times of the year! Garlic is my favourite crop to grow, next to tomatoes, of course ;)

If you have not yet amended your soil, fear not, is not too late.
Make your amendments now, about 2 to 3 weeks prior to planting. A well balanced, healthy soil is crucial to growing great garlic.

I will soon have the organically grown seed garlic for sale here at the new homestead, despite the fact that there is no greenhouse set up, as of yet....

Will have on offer ... Italian Red, German, Yugoslavian, Majestic, and limited amounts of Red Russian and Northern Quebec.    

Info about these varieties can be found on my wee web page..

Here again is my easy guide to planting and growing garlic ....

  How To Grow Really Great Garlic...

- Add amendments to your existing beds about 2 weeks before planting ... compost, manure, fish meal, alfalfa, and rock phosphates are all good amendments.

- Beds should be well draining and be in full sun!

- Plant anywhere from mid-Sept to end October

- Crack the garlic, separating the cloves gently from the hard middle part. Plant only the largest cloves, use the smaller ones for cooking. Leave the husks on the cloves! Do not crack more than 24 hours before planting.   

- Optional Step fungicide/strengthener recipe. Soak your cloves for 2 hours before planting, in a solution of warm water, 1 tbsp of baking soda and 1 tbsp of fish fertiliser or liquid seaweed. Though my soaked garlic seemed to grow bigger, better and faster green tops last year than those not soaked in this solution, there was actually little difference in the size of bulbs! However, this is a good step to take if you are not sure about the source of your garlic, or are worried about mold spores.

- Plant the cloves with the pointy end up, about 3 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Plant in either rows or blocks, with the rows about 8 inches apart. If you grow them closer together you will get smaller bulbs and cloves, though more of them.

- Water in beginning, once a week or two, till the fall rains begin. Then water again in spring, as needed, once or twice a week.

- Cover with 4 to 6 inches of straw for added frost protection, if needed. Especially in areas with hard spring frosts or heaving.

What To Do In Spring

- A foliar feed of liquid seaweed or liquid kelp a couple of time during the spring growing season is very beneficial, adds an extra boost of nutrients for larger bulbs.

- Harvest scapes in June. Removing them will help the bulbs size up and they also taste delicious!  

- Stop or slow down on watering towards the end of June as the stalks begin to yellow a bit.

- Once the stalks have dried/yellowed about half way up the stalks, or up to about 3 leaves... you can gently pull the garlic from the ground.

- Place the garlic, stalks and all, in the shade to cure for several weeks. Do not leave in the sun, or they will cook and spoil. You can begin to use the garlic in your cooking at any time, this curing period is just to ensure that they store better/longer.
- Rub the soil off of the bulbs. I use garden gloves (the ones with a bit of rubber on the palms are awesome) which makes this job a snap. The bulbs can also be hosed down if they are really dirty, but make sure to lay them out in a single layer to dry and cure, reventing rot and mould. 
The sandier your soil, the cleaner the bulbs will be. If you have heavy clay, add lots of organic material to the bed in fall before planting.   

- When dry and cured, two weeks or more, remove the stalks and the roots from the garlic. Cool, store and share as needed. The larger bulbs can be saved for the next year's crop!

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