Easy Garlic Rules

1.  Plant before the ground freezes and you can still dig down into the ground at least four inches.  In the Capital Region of upstate New York, where I garden and grow garlic, that means after Columbus Day. In this fall of 2010, we’ve had particularly mild weather, and I’ll probably wait to just before Halloween to plant my garlic.  If you plant and there’s a warm spell, the garlic might begin to sprout, which isn’t the end of the world, but better if it doesn’t start to appear above the soil line.  My barber Tony in South Troy, who has grown garlic his whole life and is a wonderful source of gardening information, has given me the courage to hold off digging in the ground as long as possible before planting my garlic crop.  But I would be kicking myself if I waited too long and the ground froze up on me. Gotta plant garlic each fall! A nearly fail-safe crop that even the active squirrels in my yard leave alone.

2.  Plant garlic cloves 4″ deep with the root down. There is no need to peel the skin off the cloves.  Leave sufficient space between the cloves- 6 inches or so.  A broom handle is a useful tool to make the 4″ deep holes in the cultivated soil.

3.  In mid to late May, there is the initial pleasure of harvesting garlic scapes, which can be used like scallions.  The scapes’ mild garlicky flavor is wonderful fresh in salads or lightly stir-fried with other vegetables and served over a hearty grain.   A friend makes a delicious pesto with scapes in lieu of basil.

4.  In mid to late July, garlic is ready to harvest and enjoy in their early summer juiciness and freshness.  I hang my harvested garlic in my basement, which is a cool dry place and enjoy this easy crop throughout the long upstate New York  winter.

5. If you are going to replant garlic you have grown, eat the small bulbs and plant the cloves of the large bulbs in the fall.

The National Center for Appropriate Technology, which is funded through a cooperative agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), manages an information service (National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service) which provides an exhaustive and useful discussion and analysis of garlic cultivation:   [].

(FWB 10/22/10)

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