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MINTER: Plant garlic now for tasty 2014 summer
While we’re planting bulbs this fall, let’s not forget one of the most important: Allium ophioscorodon.
That’s garlic, by the way.
Now is the very best time of the year to plant this valuable crop, even if you have only a small garden plot. If you haven’t grown garlic before, give it a try because at the end of next July, you’ll be rewarded with the most wonderful fresh garlic bulbs, ideal for your summer cooking
All you need is well drained soil in a raised berm or bed. I would enrich the soil with some composted manures and because of our usually wet winters, I’d also add some dolopril lime. Always choose the largest bulbs and carefully break them into cloves that should be planted about 4 to 5 inches (10 to 12 cm) apart and 2 4 inches (5 to 10 cm) deep. Keep the soil moist if we get another dry spell. Rooting will begin within a couple of weeks.
In mid to late winter, fresh green leaves will appear and they will be fine even if we get some severe cold - garlic is very hardy. Make sure you keep the beds weeded because those nasty weeds will turn into millions when spring begins. Once spring arrives and the daytime temperatures are close to 8 to 10 C, feed them with something like a 10-15-19 fertilizer with micronutrients.
In June the tops will form tiny flowers. These are called scapes and they should all be removed so the plant puts all its energy into building up the cloves. These scapes can be used in stir fries and for many other culinary uses. The scapes are a nice bonus when growing garlic.
Fall planted garlic is usually harvested about mid-July into August of the following year. It’s important to harvest once half to two thirds of the leaves have turned yellow. Make sure you lift them carefully with a fork to avoid damaging the bulbs. They need to be cured in a warm dry spot for at least two weeks to ensure they dry out, then remove the outside layers to expose beautiful white bulbs that are ready to enjoy.
As for varieties, almost everyone has their own favourite but plant the ones you enjoy most. Russian garlic is a local favourite and elephant garlic does well too, as do many other specialty varieties. So try some now as part of your winter garden.