Did you know that garlic is a natural antibiotic with several health benefits? In fact, it is known to strengthen the immune system, fight bacteria and act as an anticoagulant. Cooked or raw, we enjoy it mainly for its aroma and flavour. Garlic is considered “umami” – the Japanese word for “deliciousness”. Also known to enhance the flavours and aromas of many dishes, it is indispensable in the kitchen and in the vegetable garden!
Are you familiar with black garlic? Very trendy and a staple for top chefs, its flavour is sweet, tangy, and ultimately, delicious! Its soft texture is likened to that of candied fruit. Black garlic is the product of a lengthy maturation process for white garlic cloves. The bulbs are browned at a low temperature for 4 to 6 weeks in a confined area at a precise temperature and humidity level and are then left to dry for several months. The quality of the black garlic primarily depends on the aging duration and maturation conditions.
When to plant garlic
Garlic is a perennial that grows like an annual. Simply plant garlic cloves (bulblets) in the fall (mid-September to late October) for harvest the following summer!
Fall planting allows the bulbs to develop a healthy root system right before winter sets in. This follows garlic’s natural cycle and guarantees a strong start in the spring. Garlic can also be planted early in the spring however it is important to act early. If garlic is not planted in April-May at the latest, bulb growth may be delayed, and the garlic risks not having the time it needs to produce sufficient foliage before the solstice.
Where to plant garlic
- In full sun.
- In fertile, well-drained soil – water is its nemesis. In fact, most growing problems occur because of too much moisture and stagnant water.
- Sheltered from the wind.
Tips for successful planting
In the fall:
1.Select bulbs for planting
To get started, make sure you choose quality garlic bulbs for planting. Use homegrown cloves or varieties from a local market or garden centre, or even from a nearby producer. It is preferable to avoid planting garlic purchased at the supermarket because the bulbs may be treated with products to prevent them from germinating during storage. Also, select large, healthy bulbs (firm and free from spots and/or disease) to ensure an equally viable yield.
2.Prepare the soil
Start the planting process by adding a generous amount of Sea Compost to the existing soil to make it easier to work. Form small mounds of earth around 15 cm (6 in.) high for optimal drainage and to prevent the bulbs from rotting.
3.Plant the cloves
Gently pull the bulbs apart while taking care not to damage the clove bases (where they connect to the bulb head). If the bases are damaged the garlic will not grow!
Plant each clove separately approximately 5 to 7.5 cm (2 to 3 in.) deep while carefully positioning the pointed ends upwards. Leave a space of 10 to 15 cm (6 to 8 in.) between bulbs and of 35 to 45 cm (15 to 18 in.) between rows.
4.Cover with cedar mulch
For effective winter protection, apply 7 to 10 cm (3 to 4 in.) of mulch to the surface of your garlic planting area at the first signs of frost.
Although garlic prefers moist soil for healthy root development, it is pointless to water when planting. Newly planted bulbs are generally happy with the existing moisture in winter soil. Excessive watering can cause bulb rot.
In the spring:
1.Remove the mulch
When the snow melts (mid-March to mid-April), the young shoots will emerge from the soil. This is the perfect time to remove the mulch and allow the soil to warm up.
When the snow melts in the spring, it is critical to prevent water from pooling around the garlic plants. To do this, dig small ditches to allow proper drainage. During leaf growth (May and June), the garlic will need watering. Water regularly during droughts, then gradually reduce the frequency as the temperature rises to trigger the ripening process. Completely stop watering before harvesting (late June), once the stems start to bend.
When the weather warms up, add 4-3-7 Natural Fertilizer for Urban Gardens to the plant bases to promote healthy growth. Apply every 3 to 4 weeks. Stop fertilizing in mid-July to not affect storage.
What about the garlic blossom?
In mid-June, the leaves will stop growing and the stems will shoot out magnificent curly stalks (called “scapes”) adorned with floral buttons called “garlic blossom”. This indicates the first phase of the harvest, giving you two options:
- Wait until the scapes turn yellow, then knot them
Knotting the scapes stops their development and forces the sap to concentrate in the bulbs, which optimizes their growth.
- Cut them and add them to recipes
Garlic blossom is cut in late June once two coils have formed and the scape stalks are still tender. Of course, you can also cut them once a single loop has formed but if you wait a little while you’ll get more bang for your buck! To harvest, simply cut immediately above the plant’s leaves at the base of the scape stalk. If you wait too long, by July the garlic blossom will be tough and less palatable.
Garlic blossom is easier to digest and its flavour is more delicate than regular garlic. Garlic blossom is eaten in a way comparable to vegetables. It can be eaten raw, steamed, sautéed, added to pesto or frozen.
When and how to harvest your garlic bulbs
In late July (around 4 to 5 weeks after harvesting the garlic blossom), once half of the lower leaves have yellowed and the top leaves are still green, delicately harvest the bulbs using a trowel or your bare hands. Allow the harvested plants to dry on the ground with their stems and roots for 2 to 3 days. This drying step is essential to ensure storage longevity. In case of rain, bring the plants indoors as quickly as possible to prevent them from rotting. And finally, store your bulbs in a dry, ventilated room – they’ll last for several months!
Now you know all the secrets to planting garlic! What are you waiting for? Enjoy these last days of fabulous fall weather by planting garlic in your vegetable garden. For more articles on gardening, visit the Gardening tips section of our website and follow us on social media.