Oh garlic, how I love thee.
When I learned that people were growing garlic locally, I went on a mission to find it. I love garlic- how did I not know people were growing it locally? Where has all the garlic been hiding? Why on earth are grocery stores selling garlic from China? Eeeek!
I didn't have to go too far to find local garlic- I picked up a couple of heads at a market in the Annapolis Valley and almost squealed with excitement. Local garlic "out-flavours" other garlic by about a thousand percent in my opinion! It's juicier, punchier, and way more interesting. The first year, I had about 20 heads of garlic planted. This last year, I had 75 or so. It's addictive and so easy to grow! Here's how:
I buy garlic from Veseys (along with my veggie and herb seed) each fall. I take each bulb and soak it overnight in a seaweed solution (we picked up our seaweed powder from a local farmer's feed store) to help protect it from fungus and get it ready for being planted. I wait until the weather is cool and the ground still workable-- for me in Dartmouth, it's usually late October/early November-- before planting them. I dig a small hole, about 1.5" deep, and drop each bulb in it, pointy side up. I then cover it up and layer straw over the area to protect it over the winter months.
Then, after a lot of patience, the magic happens. Starting in early April, I usually see little plants emerge. I get super excited because it can only mean one thing: spring is not that far away!
Then, in June/early July, I start to see one of the best features of growing garlic- garlic scapes! They're curly wonders and full of crunch. Patience is required again- let them get long enough so they form a loop then cut them off. Cutting off the scapes redirects the energy the plant was putting into growing the scapes to filling out the garlic cloves. Garlic scapes are perfect in fresh salsas, mixed into a pesto, or put into stir fry.
In early August, the leaves of the garlic plant start to turn brown. I then know I'm getting really close to having garlic ready to be taken out of the garden. The only real way to know if they're ready is to take one out and check its size.
Gently, I loosen the soil around them, being careful to not tear the skin from the garlic head. I then gently take them out of the ground with my hands. In order to store garlic properly, I let them dry for a couple of weeks before attempting to use them. (Again, it's a test of patience!) They need a cool, dry place to cure. Leaving them out in the sun or putting them in a warm spot means they won't dry out. Each clove is surrounded inside the head of garlic by a "sleeve" that needs to harden up and dry.
If you haven't tried local garlic, you really are missing out. And if you are loving local garlic and wondering how to grow it, take the plunge- you won't regret it!