Garlic planting day is one of my favorite days of the year; I love homegrown garlic THAT much!! It’s juicer with more flavor, and is sweeter with less bite compared to store bought. Besides adding flavor to dishes, garlic has many health benefits as well. Believe me when I say that we eat a lot of garlic. When I cook with it I go heavy handed and usually add 4 or 5 cloves to the pan. No one has ever complained that we smell like garlic, which is very surprising.
Growing garlic isn’t that difficult and doesn’t take up much space. Pests generally don’t bother this crop, so it’s easy to grow organically. I must warn you though, if you do chose to start growing your own, you'll never want to go back to store bought. I'm sure there are different planting routines depending on which grower you talk to. Below is Jamie's easy 4-step process, and he has never had a crop failure or problem. It takes him around 4 hours to plant 360 cloves of garlic within 9 rows, each 20 feet long.
Mid-October is the usual time to plant garlic in Connecticut. This article in Mother Earth News states, "In fall, plant cloves in well-drained beds after the first frost has passed and the soil is cool. Cloves can also be planted in late winter as soon as the soil thaws, but fall-planted garlic produces bigger, better bulbs."
Jamie has had success growing both hardneck and softneck varieties in our Zone 5 (he has also grown elephant "garlic", which is technically a variety of leek). However, for the past several years he's only planted hardneck varieties, which are the hardiest for cold weather zones. We buy our bulbs from a fellow in the area or from growers at the Garlic Festival held in Bethlehem each fall. If you don't have a Garlic Festival in your locale, you can order them online but be sure to look for garlic that was grown in your area or at least in your particular planting zone for best results. You can also grow the regular garlic that you get at the health food store or grocery store, but you probably won't find much variety and what they sell may not be right for your particular planting zone. Buying garlic from someone local is the best idea since it is already acclimated to your weather. We always buy organic garlic. Of course, if you grow enough and store it properly, you may have some leftover to replant for the following year.
Bulb refers to the whole head of garlic
Clove refers to the individual "toe"
1. SOAK THE BULBS
Jamie starts by mixing up a smelly concoction to soak the bulbs in: 2 quarts of water, 2+ capfuls of fish emulsion, and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Liquid kelp can be substituted for fish emulsion. Whether buying fish emulsion or liquid kelp, look for all natural, no chemical formulas. Jamie buys his from Garden's Alive. Soak the whole bulbs for an hour or more. Jamie always pre-soaks, but I know that there are also successful growers that skip this step