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Ancient Garlic Gardener Gardening Tips

Each plants sends up a scape, which would contain its flower and then seeds if I didn’t cut it off,” Barbara continued. “German White has large cloves, about eight around a central stem. They are easy to peel and have excellent flavor. You can tell how many cloves each plant will produce by counting the number of leaves the plant has during its growing cycle. Each leaf equals one clove—roughly.”

Barbara planted this year’s crop last November 1. “The University of Maryland Extension’s ‘Planting Dates’ guide for Central Maryland recommends planting garlic from October 15 to November 15, so I planted at the mid-point.” Some growers plant in the spring, between March 15 and April 15, but garlic planted then tends to produce smaller bulbs with smaller cloves.

An organic gardener, Barbara explained how she does it: “I first rake in one inch of compost—about 40 pounds per 10 square feet of my raised garden. I then incorporate about one pound of organic 10-10-10 fertilizer per 50 square feet of garden. I then set out the cloves, root side down, pointy side up, about an inch and a half deep and six inches apart in each direction. I then sprinkle some kelp along the rows and water them in.”

Barbara said that by late fall, after a few frosts, the young plants are about six inches high. “I then mulch them with about four inches of straw. In mid-March I remove the mulch and fertilize again with the 10-10-10 and kelp. I add some cottonseed meal in early April and again two weeks later.”

Barbara said the scapes emerge about the end of May. “Scapes curl as they grow and ultimately straighten and grow little seed-like bulbils, but its best to remove them so the plants will use their energy to form bulbs rather than seeds. It’s best to harvest scapes when they’re curled like pigs’ tails, before they straighten, cutting them off about an inch above where they emerge from the plants.”

Barbara stops watering June 1 because garlic doesn’t like much water during its last month of growing.  She harvests her garlic when half of the leaves on each plant have turned brown, sometime in July in Zone 7.

“Don’t pull the plants with your hands,” she advised. “Use a fork or small shovel to left the plants. Brush off most of the soil and then let the plants dry in a well ventilated and dry area. I lay them out on a table in our basement. When all the leaves have turned brown—in about two to three weeks—they are cured and will keep for months. I then cut off the roots and the stalk near the head of the bulb.

“By the way,” Barbara added, you don’t have to wait for the garlic to cure before you use it. Curing is necessary only if you want to store it.”

“I use scapes in recipes instead of spring onions,” Barbara said. “I use just the part of the scape from where it emerges from the plant up to the bulbil. I discard the rest. I use it in stir fries, on pizza and pasta, and in soups and scrambled eggs.

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