Garlic takes about a year to grow from bulb to bulb. Starting with a bulb in the fall, cloves are seperated for planting. Each clove will grow into a whole new plant. These are planted in the fall before the ground freezes, so that the cloves settle in and start to make roots. The cloves overwinter in the soil and jump up in the spring – these ones had a few inches of green poking up in May when we had another spring snowfall!
Garlic is senstivie to day length, which triggers the leaf, flower, and bulb development. A little snow doesn’t hold them back, but you do want to protect the cloves from too much freezing and thawing. Mulching is a great technique to moderate the up and down temperature cycles through the winter.
About a month later in mid June the shoots were now “knee high to a moose”.
This visitor left only a few hoof prints, being more interested in the gout weed and raspberries along the field edges. Throughout the summer it’s important to keep the garlic well weeded and given some extra nourishment as it grows.
Most of the varieties we grew are “hard neck”, and will produce a flower bud called a scape. Scapes are removed from the stalk to encourage bigger bulb development. Scapes have a milder garlic flavour and can used just like the cloves. Garlic scape pesto is such a lovely thing to fill the garlic gap mid season.
After some dissappointing garlic harvests in 2012/2013, we realised that mold or fungus was being transmitted through our saved seed garlic. To address the issue we re-started with all new seed stock (mostly from Blue Marsh Farm in Cape Breton). It was a bit of an initial start-up cost to this, but now we are paying close attention to disease issues in the garlic and trying to make sure only the best is grown.
There are so many kinds of garlic, with different storage qualities, flavour, colour, and bulb size, or number of cloves in a bulb. Choosing several varieties of garlic was part of a trial to find unique characteristics that work well with our methods and growing conditions.
When it came to harvesting the crop, the bulbs must be handled gently to prevent any brusing or damage – quality is very important, especially for saving seed. Bulbs were laid out on shelving in single rows in a semi-shaded green house space. Normally, this location would be too bright or hot but the month of “Fogust” brought two weeks of rain at harvest time. This dry space was essential to having a great crop!
So in the fall of 2014 we planted about 400 cloves for garlic in 2015 – see you then!