Garlic is so easy to grow in Ontario! I can't understand why on earth the garlic you see in grocery stores is from China. Can it really be cost effective to transport the stuff half way around the globe??
A friend of mine gifted me some home grown garlic a couple of years ago and I have never looked back! Fresh garlic is so pungent - be warned -you may have to adjust your recipes! You can see the oil in a bulb when you cut into it for months after it is harvested...so those dry, shriveled bulbs from the store mid-winter - I have to ask myself - how long ago were they harvested?
Our climate in Ontario is so well suited to growing garlic I don't do any watering, fussing etc at all.. I just plant, prune the scapes in late spring and harvest early summer.
Here is the step by step that I follow:
- Buy a good size local garlic bulb. Not the ones from China- they have been treated to stop them from sprouting. (Once you have a crop of your own you can use your own bulbs.)
- Garlic should be planted late October/early |November. They don't like competition so you can use a flower bed that you might use for annuals or a part of your garden that you won't plant till late May. I have a raised bed that I use to grow tomatoes and it works perfectly -once I pull up the last of the tomato plants I plant the garlic and in the spring when I plant out the young tomato plants they co-exist for a month or so and then I harvest the garlic.
- Split the bulb into individual cloves. Plant each clove, base down, point up about 4" deep and 8" apart.
- And then...I just leave them. Our fall and spring weather tends to be wet enough I have never watered them until perhaps late May if we are going into a drought. (If this was your cash crop you would pay more attention but I am happy with my harvest!)
- Somewhere around June time frame you will see a green spiral top-this is called a scape. When the scape has 2 loops cut it off to allow the energy to go into growing the bulb not the scape. You can use the scape in soups, omelettes- pretty much anywhere you want a garlic accent. (They are quite pungent.)
- Garlic should not be watered for a few weeks before you harvest the bulbs. If I have had to water in late May, early June I stop after I cut the scapes. I harvest mine in early July-when the bottom of the stalk of the garlic turns brown and the top few leaves are still green. I just pull them up gently and leave about 6" of stalk on them.
- Do not leave bulbs in sunlight - it will make them bitter. Gently brush off as much soil as possible and hang a bunch of stalks (6-12) in a dark, cool place. A root cellar is perfect, a fridge is too cool and moist (garlic will sprout in fridge conditions). I don't have a root cellar so I just keep them in my garage. After they have dried for a few weeks I brush off any remaining dirt and damaged skins.
- Use throughout the fall and winter!