Did you know garlic is a natural antibiotic, offering many health benefits? In fact, it is known to strengthen the immune system, fight bacteria, and act as an anticoagulant. On top of that, garlic is considered an umami food, meaning that it has a mouth-filling, long-lasting flavour, enough to make anyone’s mouth water. Whether cooked or raw, garlic enhances the taste of everyday dishes. In this article, we’ll show you all the secrets behind successful garlic planting so you can harvest a ton of yummy bulbs.
Are you familiar with black garlic? A trendy 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, to then be 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: In the fall or in the spring?
Garlic is a perennial that grows like an annual. All you need to do is plant garlic cloves (bulblets) in the fall (mid-September to late October) to harvest the bulbs the following summer!
Planting garlic in the fall allows the bulbs to develop a healthy root system right before winter sets in. This follows garlic’s natural growing cycle, guaranteeing a strong start in the spring.
Although planting garlic in the fall is the best option, the cloves can also be planted very early in the spring. However, you’ll need to get them into the ground by April or May at the latest, otherwise you risk delaying bulb growth, and your garlic plants won’t have enough time to produce proper foliage before the solstice.
Where to plant garlic
- In a location with full sun.
- In a place sheltered from the wind.
- In rich, well-drained soil (because high humidity or stagnant water can make cloves and bulbs rot).
Garlic planting tips for a successful harvest
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 disease), ensuring 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 promote root development and enrich the soil. 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, 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 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 blossoms.” 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 blossoms are 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 blossoms are easier to digest and the flavour is more delicate than regular garlic. Garlic blossoms are eaten in a way comparable to vegetables. They can be eaten raw, steamed, sautéed, added to pesto, or frozen.
When and how to harvest garlic bulbs
Garlic harvest time is usually 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 hands. Next, remove the excess soil and hang or store the plants on wire mesh in a dry, well-ventilated place away from direct sunlight. Leave them to dry for three to four weeks. Once the drying period is over, cut off the stems 5 to 7 cm (2 to 3 in.) above the bulb and trim the roots. Finally, store your harvest in a dark, well-ventilated room, and it will last for several months.
Now you know all the secrets to planting garlic! What are you waiting for? Make the most of the last few days of outdoor gardening and go plant some garlic in your vegetable garden. For more articles on gardening, visit the Gardening tips section of our website and follow us on social media.