As much as I enjoy tulips and daffodils, my favourite bulb is garlic. If you have never grown garlic it is time to give it a try.
Garlic is healthy, easy and fun to grow and once you have tasted homegrown garlic, you will never go back to the imported variety from grocery stores.
Garlic is a super-food and is used by many cultures for flavour, but it has also been used for centuries as a medicinal ingredient – helping to lower blood pressure, acting as an anti-inflammatory and even curing athlete’s foot. The beauty of garlic is that practically everyone can find a space to grow it.
Garlic will grow anywhere from your established veggie beds, to deep containers, and even tucked amongst your perennials in an ornamental bed.
October is a perfect month to plant garlic and this fall the weather is giving us warm days and slightly cooler nights, which are great for sowing garlic bulbs.
To prepare your area for garlic planting you will need a location that is completely sunny and really rich soil high in organic matter and good quality seed garlic.
Please don’t buy garlic from the grocery store and try to plant it in your garden. Canada imports almost all of its grocery store garlic from around the world.
Garlic grown in China has little chance to thriving in our West Coast conditions.
Also, most of this garlic is sprayed with a sprout inhibitor that isn’t beneficial to have on your garlic when you are trying to get it to sprout and grow.
Try and find organic local seed garlic that is meant for planting. West Coast seeds, Salt Spring Seeds and other local seed companies sell good growing garlic.
You can also pick up local garlic from the farmers’ market.
Find full-sun, rich soil location, and remember to provide good drainage.
People with clay soil will need to amend it because garlic doesn’t like to be in wet soil.
Separate each head into individual cloves and plant them, pointed side up, a few inches below the soil level. I usually space garlic about four inches; you can plant in rows or stagger them. It really doesn’t matter as long as you leave space for the emerging bulb. Weeds are generally not a huge problem as garlic is a natural weed inhibitor, but you do want to keep your garlic patch well weeded and watered.
In early June, the plants will form a scape (a pig’s-curl looking green sprout) or flowering top. Cut these back and enjoy them sautéed or chopped in salads.
This encourages larger bulb growth under the ground, which is what you are trying to achieve.
The bulbs are ready when the tops are brown and falling over, usually in mid-July. If the weather cooperates, harvest and lay out the bulbs in the sun for a few days to cure and dry the outer skins. Hang them in a cool, dry place to store and save some to plant the following year.