GROWING YOUR OWN GARLIC
In the planning stages of starting our garlic farm, we researched the best planting, growing and curing methods. We read many books, referenced many garlic websites, learned from online garlic groups, watched many YouTube videos, and attended workshops, farm tours and conferences, to acquire the knowledge that we have. We encourage you to do your own research to find the information that resonates the most with you. These are some of the best practices that we recommend. Please contact us with any questions that you have, as we are happy to help you come up with the best plan for you based on our experience.
Preparing your soil
Before you plant, we recommend that you choose a well-drained area, and that you test your soil to prepare it for your garlic crop. Garlic does not like to have wet feet, prefers a pH between 6.0 and 7.5, and likes nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium and sulfur. We amend our soil with certified organic compost before planting in the fall.
When to plant
Plant your garlic in the fall, 6 weeks before the expected snowfall and deep freezing for your area. Plant cloves with the point up 2”- 3” deep, every 6” in rows spaced 8”- 12” apart. Be very careful not to bruise the clove as any abnormalities can be weak spots for disease to enter.
How to fertilize
There are many different methods of fertilizing. We prefer to use certified organic compost a few weeks before planting, and fish hydrolysate in the spring every 2- 3 weeks until June. Other popular fertilizers are blood meal and Alfalfa meal. All of these fertilizers are high in nitrogen. Do not fertilize after your garlic has begun to grow a scape. Continuing to add nitrogen after this point will add growth to the leaves and will result in small bulbs.
Mulching over the winter
Mulch your garlic with a covering of leaves, hay or straw to help protect it over the winter. In the spring you can loosen and pull back some of the mulch to help your garlic shoots poke through, and then you can replace it when plants are 6” tall to help control weeds. We have also had good success with leaving the mulch on. Depending on the size of the growing area, this could save you a lot of time. Mulching will help to keep weeds down in your garlic beds, but ensure that you monitor your crop regularly, as they do not compete well with weeds.
Scapes are delicious and can be eaten raw, cooked, pickled or made into a tasty pesto. They grow at the top of hardneck garlic stems and should be snapped off when they are around 6” long. Removing the scapes redirects energy into the bulb producing significantly bigger bulbs by an average of 10- 20%.
Watering and weeding
Water your garlic deeply every 7 – 10 days if your spring is dry, but taper off watering in June as garlic doesn’t mind being dry. It is preferable that garlic gets no water a few weeks before harvesting. This will make curing the garlic much easier and reduce the chances of your garlic molding while curing.
Harvest your garlic when there are 5-6 green leaves left on the plant. Dig a few bulbs up to be sure that they are plump with a thick dry papery skin. Depending on where you live, this is sometime around the end of June to the middle of July. You can carefully use a shovel, pitch fork or undercutter bar on a tractor to loosen the area around your garlic before pulling the plant out.
Handling and curing
During harvest, handle your garlic with care as they can bruise easily before they are cured. Ensure that you have a shaded, warm, dry place with ample airflow (or use fans) to cure your garlic for 2-4 weeks, or until the leaves are dry and brown. There are many different methods of curing your garlic, from hanging, to laying on trays. Choose the best method that fits the space that you’re using. Once the stem has sealed, cut the roots and stems off and remove loose wrappers.
Storing your garlic
Garlic stores well in a cool, dry, dark area with a constant temperature. Cold temperatures promote sprouting, so do not store in the refrigerator. Ideal long-term storage conditions are between 13-14C, and 45-50% humidity.
Enjoy your garlic!
We adore adding garlic to almost everything that we cook! We use the cured bulbs regularly, and we also chop up some to freeze in ice cube trays for quick and easy access. There are so many health benefits to regularly eating garlic, so enjoy the fruits of your labour!