All about garlic

It’s that time of the year again. The planning of planting the garlic.

Only a few posts back I was talking about my love for garlic – you can read all about it here – and I am ready to start planting again. The feed store in town has brought out their harvest and we have eyed it for a few days now. I have a feeling around mid-October it will be the ideal time to get busy with all of it. That gives me about 4 weeks to make any required changes to my plans. Also, I am happy to know there will be 5 weekends in October! (in case things get delayed). Mitchell and I both work full-time outside of the farm, so the weekend time is very precious, and just as you know lots of things can arise, as thus is life! There are no set guidelines when it is better to plant the garlic anyway 😉 Some prefer to plant cloves in spring, like my dad, and some prefer to lay them in the ground before the first frost of the year, like us. We plant them in late fall because I would hate to lose most of them over the winter to unexpected things and have little to work with in the spring. It gives me peace of mind that they will be safe in the ground AND I get all excited for the new shoots in early spring!

This year, I will also be experimenting with planting the garlic seeds.

 

Based on my research, I put together a list of steps to take before, during and after planting the garlic. This list is for guidelines only, please use your own judgement during the process and adapt to what works best for you 🙂

  1. Divide the bulbs into cloves: The garlic bulb can easily be divided into cloves. Do this gently as not to damage the protective sleeve that covers the cloves. Then separate the best cloves from the rest (the chubbiest, with no blemishes nor mildew, etc). These will be the cloves that will be planted. The cloves will be put in ground with the flat, hard root down.
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  2. Prepare the area for planting: Based on our area, and the tools we had on hand, raised beds were more practical then having to clear the bushes, till the area and have to weed a million times per season… And so, fill up the raised bed with triple mix soil or any good mixed soil OR weed and till the area where you would like to plant the garlic. Even out the soil in all corners of the raised bed and start making holes for planting the cloves. The cloves should be planted 10 cm deep and about 15-20cm apart. Apparently there is a bulb planter available to purchase at nurseries or hardware store, but being frugal means do with what you have! my index finger is about 8cm, so I just tried to make the hole a little deeper than that (with my finger).
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  3. Plant the cloves and/or seeds: After you have all the holes ready or marked, gently drop the clove in, making sure the flat part was flat in the hole. Going back to holes made by the finger, do make sure that it is deep enough that about 5cm of soil covers the clove. You could create a little hill over the clove to be extra sure there is enough soil to provide protection from early frost. By the book, plant before the first frost, to ensure the roots can establish themselves before ground freezes completely.
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  4. Prepare the area for winter: Add mulch to the area/raised bed and keep in mind to have about 10cm of leaves or straw. If you do clean your yard of fallen leaves, don’t have them go to waste! Bag them and keep them for this task. Personally, we don’t rake the leaves, as they become natural mulch for our whole yard, but people with “manicured” lawns definitely do! For the past 2 years, during the fall we’ve been driving around and collecting paper bags full of leaves and re-purposed them back in our yard. The paper bags were saved to start the fire in the wood stove OR patch a drafty corner in the chicken coop — gots to be frugal I tell you!
  5. Early spring shoots: Nothing is more exciting than seeing early rewards for your hard work! Spring shoots come through early May (or earlier depends where you live). By this time the mulch should be nicely composted down and you can add a little more, just enough to keep the weeds at bay. Through out the growing period, maintain the area/raised bed weeded. Garlic doesn’t need a lot of water, but watch not to let the area dry out too much. Scrapes (the garlic’s stalk and flower bud) will appear early July. You can cut them before they get too hard and use them in your cooking receipts that require garlic. If you want to plant the garlic seeds, you need to leave a few scrapes to flower. The seeds can be gathered when the plant is completely dry (end of August or so). Note: Garlic grown from seed won’t produce decent-sized bulbs for eating for a few seasons. I will try to get back here and update on how my experiment went.
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  6. Harvest: The garlic is ready to harvest when the bottom couple of leaves and stalk are dry, brown and brittle. It is very important to loosen the soil a little bit and use a little hand shovel to scoop the garlic out from way underneath, rather than pulling at the stalk to get it out of the ground. This will avoid damaging the bulb during pulling, which will further cause the bulb to not cure properly (you risk having the bulb rot while curing).
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  7. Curing process: As you have all the garlic pulled out, remove the big clumps of soil gently, avoiding bruising the bulbs. Pay much attention to the outer skin – it will be a little damp and easily bruised. Leave the garlic to harden in the sun for a few hours. Our veggie garden gets the most sun in the afternoon, so early evening I pulled the garlic out and left it on the raised bed to dry a little as the sun was moving further to set. After, I tied the garlic together in bunches of 5-6 and hung them outside in a covered space with good air movement (which happened to be under our bedroom’s balcony, protected from the North and West winds. Remember to keep dry to avoid mildew. After a couple of weeks, the casing will become papery. At this time you could trim the stem roughly 4 cm above the top of the bulb, and clean off the roots. Store your garlic in paper bags in a cool, dry space.
    *Remember to keep some of the best bulbs to use for next season’s planting and follow this list to get you on your way again!
    *I also refill the bed with soil or compost and let it rest for a few weeks (until mid-October). our chickens will jump to the opportunity of an empty raised bed and dust bathe in the dirt until craters are formed! But their dropping will help compost the bed further 😉 win-win situation.
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  8. Cooking: There are various ways to eat the garlic and I encourage you to experiment as much as possible as it possesses great health benefits! Also, I recommend trying minced garlic smeared on fried/grilled fish. You will never eat fried/grilled fish any other way 😉 This is how we eat fried fish at my house and I brought this tradition with me from Europe. I found a quick recipe here for guidelines (you can omit the sour cream, but why would you?)

 

Fun Facts about garlic

  • Egyptian slaves built the Pyramids on a diet of garlic, bread and water. Garlic was believed to give them a lot of strength
  • April is National Garlic Month – Garlic Day is April 19th
  • During the reign of Tutankhamun, you could buy a healthy slave for 15lb of garlic
  • Garlic contains 17 amino acids
  • Its distinct flavor is due to a chemical reaction that occurs when the garlic cells are broken. The flavor is most intense just after mincing
  • Garlic cloves cooked whole will have a nutty and mellow taste (that’s why I love the bulb cut in half and baked in the oven!)
  • Alliumphobia is the name given to the fear of garlic
  • The most cloves of garlic eaten in one minute is 34, achieved by Deepak Sharma Bajagain of Nepal
  • China produces around 66% of World’s garlic

One Thought on “All about garlic

  1. Rachell S. on September 16, 2015 at 10:09 am said:

    OMG! This came to my inbox right on time! I started seeing the garlic at the farmer’s market this past weekend and I thought of your previous post. I am going to try planting them in my little 4X4 raised bed! I’ve never tried fish with garlic… it’s always the stake that gets the minced garlic and fish the tartar sauce. Thanks for posting.

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