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How to Grow Garlic

Growing Garlic is a simple process, which can be divided into a few steps:

1) Planting:

We plant garlic in Mid-October, in Southern Ontario. Prepare the soil by integrating lots of organic matter (compost or manure is ideal), a couple weeks before planting. Plant individual cloves approximately 6 inches apart, with the pointy end up. The larger the clove, the deeper it should be planted, but in general 3-4 inches is plenty deep.

2) Mulching:

After completing planting all your cloves, you want to cover the soil with a thick layer of mulch. Straw is ideal, but leaves will do just fine. (Be aware that leaves can form an impenetrable mat, and so need to be shuffled in the spring in order to allow the garlic stem to break through.) The mulch will perform several functions. It will keep the garlic insulated over the winter, keep moisture in the soil during dry periods, keep weeds down, and eventually break down to provide nutrition for the soil. Don’t hesitate to mulch thickly (several inches), as garlic is resilient and will generally make its way through the mulch in the spring.

3) Weeding:

Depending how thickly you mulched and how much you planted, you may have weeds in the spring. One thorough weeding in May/June should be enough for the entire season.

4) Scaping:

Sometime in the late spring, the garlic plant will start to grow a garlic scape. Garlic scapes are the flower/seed stalk that shoots up from the garlic bulb. It is important to harvest the garlic scapes, as this will allow the plant to focus its energy on producing a big, healthy bulb, rather than the flower/seed pod. Harvest the scape when it begins the process of curling, simply by snapping it off with your hands. Then, cook with your scapes in any manner you would use regular garlic. (See Garlic Recipes for delicious Garlic Scape Pesto recipe)

5) Harvesting:

Garlic is generally ready to harvest in late July, or early August, depending on the variety. When approximately half the leaves of the garlic plant have browned, this is a good time to harvest. Harvest simply by using two hands to pull on the stalk to bring the bulb forth from underground.

6) Curing Garlic:

Garlic will store best if it goes through a curing process. To cure, brush most of the dirt off the bulbs and hang the garlic by its stalks, in bunches of 10-20. Specifically, wrap the bunch with twine and hang them in a dry location. In about three weeks, the curing process will be complete, and you can cut away the stalks.

7) Final Notes:

Garlic needs to be stored in a cool place away from direct sunlight. Storing in paper bags in the kitchen cupboard works well. Also, in most locations in Canada, no watering is required throughout the 9 month growing process. The fall/winter/spring precipitation will provide all the necessary moisture.