Garlic

I love growing garlic. It requires little attention, is attractive to no pests and reliably produces a great return.

We plant our garlic in October from cloves we select from the previous year’s harvest. Usually by mid-June it’s ready.

Digging it up is a little time-consuming as you have to use a digging fork to loosen the soil before you pull up the bulb, but by summertime farm work standards it isn’t difficult.

A handful of this year's crop

A handful of this year’s crop

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Once upon a time I tied and hung each plant to a cattle panel in our equipment shed where it would cure. Now that was time-consuming. These days we use a much more sensible technique–we lay the garlic out on top of overturned vegetable crates, surrounded by box fans. It dries out well this way and no tedious tying/hanging is necessary. This time of year our basement smells powerfully of garlic, which is alright by me.

Our low-tech, but effective, curing method

Our low-tech, but effective, curing method

I’ve found that our onions are usually ready to harvest by July 4, which coincidentally is when the garlic is cured and ready to be prepped for storage. In the early days I’d untie all the garlic, then tie and hang the onions in its place. Now we just gather up the garlic on the crates and replace it with onions. Works perfectly.

Fresh uncured garlic is a once-a-year treat and I recommend you try to find it at your farmers market next year. We offer it, dirty roots and all, and our customers rave about it. Of course they’re pretty fond of our cured garlic too–which is delicious and superior, of course, to store-bought garlic, most of which is imported from China.

Once the garlic is cured (that is, it has dried out and has the papery skin characteristic of cured garlic) we are faced with the task of cutting the stalks and roots off the thousands of bulbs we harvested. But the good news is that there is no rush. We knock it off a little at a time and it’s a good job for a dreary winter day.

For anyone who isn’t growing garlic, I recommend planting some this fall. It’s easy to grow no matter how ungreen one’s thumb might be. And in any event, try to source your garlic locally. Nutritious, delicious, medicinally valuable, locally-grown garlic is not only better tasting (usually heirloom varieties unavailable in grocery stores), but because it has fed off of the soil that nature designed to sustain life in your community, it’s better for you too.

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29 comments on “Garlic

  1. Aggie says:

    Great info. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. BeeHappee says:

    Oh, thank you, I love garlic, and when I was pregnant, all I wanted to eat was garlic. 🙂
    I was just at a friend’s house and saw one of those huge bags full of peeled garlic sections, from the store. I was surprised, since they buy most of their food from local farmers, and asked if it tastes ok. She said it tastes just like the garlic they grow in their own backyard.. which I have hard time believing.
    Your garlic is looking good!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      I don’t claim to have a sophisticated pallet when it comes to garlic, but my gourmet friends insist that there is a pronounced difference in the taste and it makes sense that there would be. I am pleased with how ours came out this year. It was a good year for garlic here.

      Liked by 1 person

      • BeeHappee says:

        I am sure there is. Yesterday we got some garlic scapes from a local organic farmer – garlic is not ready to harvest here for a few more weeks. Do you eat garlic scapes? First time I tried them and loved them. Oh, I need Cherie’s book, she probably has all kinds of goodness in there.

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      • Bill says:

        Scapes come from hardneck garlic, grown in colder climes. We grow softneck here, so no scapes although we do enjoy the “spring garlic” (the garlic equivalent of scallions).

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      • BeeHappee says:

        Ah, ok, did not know we up here were hardnecks and you down south, softnecks. 🙂 Thank you for explaining.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. bobraxton says:

    Whoopee-DRY-Yi-Yo-Git Along

    Liked by 1 person

  4. avwalters says:

    I’ve been wondering about growing garlic in Michigan. We always did it in California–but the overwintering business…in a land with real winter?

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    • Bill says:

      I don’t know. Maybe one of our northern friends will comment on that. We had a harsh winter by our standards and the garlic did just fine. My guess is that it would be OK.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Sue says:

      I live in Northern Michigan and grow some VERY FINE garlic. You need to go with a Hardneck type. Plant in September for a mid-July harvest. Couldn’t be without it!!
      🙂

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      • Bill says:

        Thanks for the info Sue! Interesting. Here we plant in October and harvest in mid-June. It makes sense that you would plant sooner and harvest later. We grow softneck here.

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      • avwalters says:

        Sue! A Northern Gardener! And it looks like you’re close to us–(Cedar in Leelanau). I don’t mean to sound like a technical idiot–but how do I subscribe to your blog? I visited but couldn’t subscribe (I just got a blank screen.)

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  5. I’ve been growing it every year for a long time, using the last bulbs to plant the next year’s harvest, and boy was this year a bust. Getting almost no rain this spring/summer, it totally dried out in the pots I always grow it in (so pretty on our deck while it’s all green), so because I’m so used to “plant it and forget it”, I never even thought about it until it was too late and we pulled up tiny tiny bulbs. Very jealous of your crop!

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    • Bill says:

      That’s a drag. Sorry to hear it. We bought bulbs to use as seed many years ago and that’s the last time we ever bought garlic. We always set aside enough for planting the following year. We have had years when the bulbs weren’t as large as we like (they’re smaller this year than they have been in other years) but we’ve never had a total flop. With gardening that’s always a risk of course. Hopefully your tiny bulbs are tasty nonetheless and hopefully next year will treat your garlic must better.

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  6. Joanna says:

    Just doing a quick catch up. How do you know garlic is ready? Here we wait till the tops die back for onions, but I don’t get the impression that is right for garlic.

    Glad I’m not the only one battling weeds in the beans. Ours will be tackled when the hay is in – next week hopefully

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    • Bill says:

      Knowing when garlic is ready is tricky. A clue is when the bottom leaves begin to turn brown, but the best way to know is just to dig up a few and check them.

      So glad I’m not dealing with hay this year. First time in a long time that we’re not baling our own. As for weeds, they’re on a rampage. But it’s July so that is to be expected. With your long days I don’t see how you’d have any chance of keeping up with them.

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      • Joanna says:

        Thanks Bill. I guess I will take a look soon. The scapes have only just appeared, so I am guessing they weren’t ready before

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  7. EllaDee says:

    Home grown local garlic is the best… even I have managed to grown some in absentia in our garden. It drives me nuts seeing imported garlic when I know local growers export the best garlic. I’m happy for them, they get good money for it but our supermarkets sell the lesser quality & cheaper imported product for outrageous prices also to people who don’t know better.

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    • Bill says:

      China is world’s largest producer of garlic, by far, and here in the U.S. we import a lot of it, even though we also export garlic. It’s hard to see how that makes any sense.

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  8. Sue says:

    I started growing garlic from bulbs picked up at the Farmer’s Market. I replanted from the original stock for 7 years, never a problem. This year, however, I “splurged” on some garlic from mail order. I’m trying two varieties that sounded heavenly. I’m sure there’s no such thing as a “bum” garlic, but I hope it’s as good as my old standby.

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    • Bill says:

      We started a long time ago with two varieties–Silverwhite and Nootka Rose. Then one year I got the bulbs mixed up and I can’t tell them apart with peeling them. So now we have a mixture of the two. I like to think of it as White Flint garlic. 🙂

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  9. df says:

    Ah garlic, the very first thing we became self sufficient in. It’s made me feel like I can garden, but of course it’s not hard to grow successfully. We also plant in late October for a July crop. We’re at the stage of cutting off the scapes, the bulbs will be ready in a few more weeks as we’re more northern of course! Enjoy!!

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    • Bill says:

      I often tell people who don’t think they can garden to start with garlic.
      All this talk of scapes is making me want some! We have lots of gardening advantages in this climate, but we don’t get to have homegrown garlic scapes.

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  10. In SE Australia, we plant in April or May, before the shortest day and harvest in early December, before the longest. We love our garlic and tried growing it commercially for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Thanks for sharing that Deb. Fascinating that our seasons are opposites. I hadn’t thought of the fact that we harvest just before the longest day of the year, but that is true here too.

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  11. nebraskadave says:

    8:31 AM 7/5/2015
    Bill, garlic is one of my main seasoning ingredients. I suppose everyone has a select favorite few seasonings that they like. There’s just a handful for me. My pallet is simple with simple tastes. I grow onions every year which is another seasoning favorite but have never tried to grow garlic. I’m not sure why. It all seems a little mysterious why I haven’t thought of growing some before. I’ll have to order up some this fall for planting.

    The summer is flying by and the weeds are slowly coming under control. The rain has slowed so some serious garden work can be accomplished. Besides the weed eradication serious attention will be given to fence building. I talked with a sweet corn grower yesterday and he claims that a electric fence wire about eight to ten inches off the ground will make those raccoons squeal when they hit the wire. He grows some of the best sweet corn. If my double fence method doesn’t work, I may have to resort to portable electric fencing.

    Have a great garlic harvesting day.

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    • Bill says:

      I hope you do plant garlic this year Dave. It’s easy to grow (I especially like the fact that deer don’t eat it) and with your taste for it it would be a natural addition to your garden. Of course it stores and keeps well too. And it doesn’t take much room so you can grow a lot of it in a little space. And you only have to buy the seed once. If you decide to do it I’d recommend buying some garlic from your farmer’s market and planting that. That way you’ll know it’s a variety you like that grows well in your area, and you’ll be helping out a local farmer to boot! 🙂

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