We still have several feet of snow on the ground here in most places, but I’m thrilled to report that there are also a few patches of bare ground just starting to show. This is the time of year when I begin to feel very impatient because I can’t wait for the snow to melt so I can get out into the gardens again. It will be a while yet before we can actually plant anything because we have such late frosts here, but I’m already thinking about one of the first things I can actually plant… garlic. Garlic needs cool temperatures as the leaves are developing, so garlic can be planted as early as six weeks before the last frost date. Last year for the first time I also tried planting garlic in the fall, so I am eager to see how that worked out in this temperature zone and if there will be any bulbs ready for harvest earlier than usual.
I find it very easy to grow garlic here. I just separate the cloves and plant each one about two inches deep and at least six inches apart. I have found that the bulbs will grow larger in full sun and in really rich soil that has been deeply cultivated. I also cut off any flower heads as they develop so all of the plant’s energy can go into the bulb.
I always let the garlic tell me when it is time to harvest the bulbs. When the tops begin to turn yellow, I bend them down and leave them until the stems become soft. This is the time to dig the bulbs. At this point I still leave the roots and tops attached and spread everything out in a protected area out of the sun until the tops are dry and the skin on the bulbs has become papery. After the drying period I usually make at least one garlic braid, and this year I plan to use several bulbs right away to make garlic powder, but with the rest of the bulbs I just cut off the tops and roots. I store my garlic bulbs in a cool place, and they keep well. Storage time for garlic can be up to one year, but we always run out long before the winter is over.
I need to start growing more garlic!