In the Garden:
Northern & Central Midwest
August, 2009
Regional Report

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My garlic is drying on a window screen, just awaiting wonderful winter dishes.

Garlic!

I'm going to convince you to grow garlic for next year. The garlic this year is phenomenal, so this is the time to hit the farmer's market for garlic to store for winter and also for planting. I just used the last cloves from my 2008 crop a few days ago -- they lasted that long.

I harvested this year's crop about three weeks ago, and it is drying happily on a window screen in my screen porch. These heads of garlic are the progeny of garlic I was given about ten years ago by two gardening friends. They had each been growing garlic in their own gardens for years, and using bulbs from the same plants year after year actually allowed the garlic to acclimate to the soil and climatic conditions of their gardens.

Grow the Same Garlic in the Same Place
Growing the same garlic in the same soil is essential for good garlic. I've been using bulbs for each year's crop consistently, so my garlic strain is happily used to my garden conditions. Each year, the heads I get are larger than the year before.

Save the Largest Heads for Planting
Even though it's certainly tempting to use the largest heads for cooking, save five or six of them for next year's garden. It may seem like sacrificing the best, but the large cloves will continue a good crop and produce the largest heads.

Plant in Fall
Garlic is a true scaly bulb that grows like ornamental bulbs in the garden. It should be planted in the fall. As soon as you harvest, make a note on your calendar to plant October 15. I've experimented by planting it in early spring, but the majority of the crop ends up being single large cloves instead of heads of cloves. It's still edible but doesn't store well, so needs to be used quickly.

How to Plant
Dig a trench about 3 inches deep, sprinkle soybean meal in the trench (available at feed and seed stores), and put the cloves in about 3 inches apart. Fill the trench, water and spread shredded leaves.

Harvest
The garlic will often sprout in the fall, but don't worry. It will go dormant and then get a quick start in spring. The reason for fall planting is to allow plants to develop sturdy root systems. The following spring, keep it well watered, and when the flower scapes form, pinch them out and saute them with vegetables for a tasty lightweight garlic seasoning. Garlic is ready for harvest when about three out of five leaves have turned yellow. Dig the bulbs gently and allow them to air dry for two to three weeks before storing in a cool, dry basement.

With a little luck and perseverance, you should be eating garlic all next winter.


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