It’s not too late to plant garlic!

There is snow on the ground, but the earth is not yet frozen to any significant depth. You can plant garlic now and it’s fairly simple. You’ll be so proud of yourself next summer and there will be no more need to purchase garlic at the grocery store.

Buy garlic for cooking carefully, by the way. Look for locally grown bulbs, not garlic imported from China. It is impossible to know the growing conditions and processing of food stuffs from from Asia; contaminants are all too common.

Shop at the local farmers’ market or ‘natural foods’ stores for local varieties. Local garlic will be far more likely to grow here because it was grown in our climate.

Although garlic prefers well-drained soil, it is tough and will grow in our local clay. However, you should amend the area or plant the cloves in a raised bed for optimal growth. “Killarney Red” is a variety that tolerates clay soil particularly well.

Choose a healthy bulb of garlic (plump, taut skin, no soft spots or browning) and break it into cloves. Use the largest cloves as your seeds to plant in your garden. You do not need to devote a whole bed to your garlic crop. You can plant them amongst your flowers, or other veggies – any sunny spot. Just remember to mark the location!

Plant each clove 6 to 8 cm. (2 to 3 inches) deep, with the pointy bit upwards. The roots will form from the bottom. Leave the skin on, and plant the cloves 10 to 15 cm (4 to 6 inches) apart. Cover the clove with earth, water well and top with a bit of manure/compost if you have it or a layer of leaves.

The garlic leaves will show themselves early in the spring. This is when the labelling proves useful. It’s too easy to assume it’s a weed. In late summer, the leaves of the garlic will be about 2 feet tall and begin to turn brown. When about half the leaves have turned, it’s time to use the garden fork and carefully loosen the soil around the plants, then lift out the bulbs of garlic.

Garlic keeps best when it is dried with the leaves on. After harvesting, hang it in a warm, sheltered spot where it will not get wet. After it is thoroughly dry, it can be kept indoors, out of light and away from damp. Don’t store it in a refrigerator. A simple way is to place it in a paper bag, in a cupboard at room temperature.

Remember to keep some to plant for the next season!

Here is an excellent website for details about planting and harvesting garlic:

Submitted by Leslye Glover