We planted out garlic cloves last autumn (April and May here in NZ).
6 months on, we harvested lovely big bulbs from those plants we cared for.
And … smaller, poorer quality from cloves I ‘bunged in’ amidst other plants and left. These grew l-o-n-g strappy leaves reaching up for light. The plants competed for nutrients with roots of other plants in the soil so the bulbs are less well fed and smaller.
How did we plant for great results?
Some of our bulbs from the previous year were lovely and big and some were itty biity small ones. See the difference in the size of the cloves? We chose the larger cloves to re-plant and the littler ones went into our dinner!
Seems strange to not eat the big, juicy cloves – unless you are looking far ahead to next year’s harvest too!
Big cloves provide a bigger store of nutrients for the new plants to grow and have the best chance to make lovely strong leaves and new bulbs.
Where possible, we kept them well fed and watered, in a sunny, protected spot.
And the mulch was kept weed-free. Garlic grow best with clear space around themselves. They struggle if covered by other vegetation. Their smallish root system is easily overwhelmed by more vigorous plant roots. Give them space and TLC and lovely big bulbs can form.
Early growth was doing well:
Over the next few months, these garlic cloves we planted produced abundant leaves – doing well.
The amount of sunlight/night time our garlic plants experience – ‘day-length’ is important to them.
When the days start to lengthen [after the shortest day], the garlic is triggered to form a bulb at soil level.
Cloves planted in autumn have time to make lots of leaves [which make food for the developing plant to grow] before the shortest day arrives and the plant is triggered to form a bulb.
Cloves planted at the shortest day will form fewer leaves before starting to produce the bulb – often leading to less nutrients available and hence smaller bulbs.
I used to use the old folk wisdom to ‘plant garlic on the shortest day and harvest on the longest day’ each year. Now I plant bulbs in mid-Autumn to give them the best chance to grow lovely, big bulbs.
Harvest garlic when most of the leaves are drying off and you can still see a few green leaves. Or, as we did here, harvest when you need the space for other crops and let them dry off in their own time.
Dry thoroughly so it stores well and provides high quality supplies for your kitchen.
Some people like to plait the stalks and hang the plaits up.
I tend to leave the individual plants laid out to dry in a sheltered spot where there is a breeze and no rain. When really dry, I cut the bulbs off with a good length of stem [it takes ages for the inner leaves to really dry off] and put them in a paper bag in a dry, cool place for storage.
For more information visit Wikipedia’s article about garlic
Using your own garlic harvest
First, enjoy knowing YOU grew it!
Then bring a few bulbs into the kitchen and place them where you will remember to use this precious, vital resource.
When gently cooked in oil/butter, it becomes sweeter and has far less after-effects.
We add a clove to many savory dishes for the health-giving vitality of this wonderful live food.
If you are looking for health benefits, the active constituents are stronger in the raw garlic.
One of the nicest ways to get these is enjoying garlic bread [crush a clove into some butter and spread over a sliced bread stick], wrap in foil and heat gently – delicious!
Or in hummus. Mix some well-cooked chick peas [your own? or from a can], a clove of garlic, juice of a lemon, salt and pepper [if those are your thing] and some tahini [ground sesame seeds formed into a paste] to thicken the dip. Eat with salad or home-made chips or carrot-sticks or as a side dish with your main meal. [We often add a pinch of stock powder and curry powder for a different flavor]
Or in salad dressing if that’s your thing.
Garlic’s reputation for leaving a lingering ‘odor’ can be neutralized:
A story I read:
About a woman who loved garlic and her boss who didn’t love the smell! So he told her to quit garlic or her job.
She knew she wouldn’t quit garlic so had a final big binge and ate many cloves in her meal [was it 24?].
Then she went to work expecting to be told to leave. She was amazed when the boss said “I knew you’d have sense and quit the garlic“! He didn’t smell garlic so she found out that, with enough garlic, all the toxins it combines with to create the odor are finally removed and leave a clean breath and odor!!
So she could have her garlic and eat it too – as long as it was lots of cloves!
If you experiment, I’d love to hear about the results!
Another remedy for garlic odor: eating raw parsley is reputed to neutralize garlic odor.
I sometimes use this option – and my family tell me it works.
Another experiment for you?
May you have fun growing, harvesting and eating your year’s supply of garlic too!