We planted garlic last fall- our post from then, “A Few Tips from the Garlic Workshop” gives info on garlic and how to plant it. We planted the garlic and covered the plot with leaf mulch. After winter little garlic sprouts were popping through the mulch. In April we raked away the mulch so the sprouts could get plenty of fresh air and sunshine.
And, in spring, spinach was planted between the rows of garlic as a companion crop. This seemed to keep the weeds away, and the spinach was enjoyed in salads, lasagna, and as steamed greens. It was gone by June.
In June, scapes shot up out of the base of the garlic plants. They are the curly, flowering tops of the plants and it is important to remove them. Cutting the scapes sends the plant's energy from the top of the plant to the root, promoting larger heads of garlic. We chopped them up and used them in stir fries.
In July the lower leaves of the garlic plants turned yellow and the stalks stood thick and strong. These told us that harvest time had arrived. We plucked one out as a test and sure enough, a plump head of garlic popped out of the soil. Much unlike last year, in which the soil had not been improved, and I forgot to trim off the scapes, this year’s harvest resulted in nice big heads.
Our drying apparatus is an old wood-framed screen door propped on a couple of saw horses in the shed. The plants were laid out on the screen. The heads were not washed because the soil was not wet when we pulled them up. Washing can promote rotting and we want the bulbs to be thoroughly dry so they store well.
The garlic stalks will dry on the screen for three to four weeks. Then the dirt is brushed off and the stalks braided, and we’ll hang up the braids in the basement to cure. Curing takes another three to four weeks at which time the stalks are cut off and the roots trimmed away. The garlic is then ready to use.
The biggest and plumpest of the garlic heads will be set aside to be planted this fall for next year’s crop. Garlic is one of the most useful things we grow- this pungent allium goes into sauces, stir fries, stews, soups, infused oils, and is wonderful raw in salads or as cloves roasted whole in a veggie roast. And best of all, we won’t be worrying about vampires. -G.H.