Here on the south-west coast of British Columbia its time to plant garlic if you haven’t already. I started planting my garlic around the beginning of October but had to wait to plant the rest as I have other crops still growing. Planting garlic is generally done from the beginning of October to November 15 in this area. It’s good to wait for the soil to be moistened by fall rains before planting.
Buy garlic bulbs that are firm and healthy looking. They shouldn’t be soft or squishy when touched. Above is a head of Russian garlic. I prefer the Russian garlic as it’s a hardneck type that produces scapes before the garlic is ready under the ground. It’s like a two in one crop. Softneck garlic is popular as it can be braided with ease after harvesting. Hardneck garlic is just that, a hard neck which is too hard to braid but can be hung in bunches. Be sure to try different varieties each year to see which ones you like best. Some have more intense flavour than others.
Before planting your garlic you need do to what is often called cracking. You will be planting a clove of garlic which will grow into a full-sized bulb the following year. Separating your cloves can be tricky and difficult for anyone with arthritis. I like to grab the point on the top and give it a bit of a twist. You may break off the top to expose the bulbs inside. You can also use a dull knife to pry them apart but risk the chance of damaging the cloves inside. Take your time with this step. Once one clove is out the rest will be easy.
Not all garlic cloves are created equal. Most garlic bulbs will have between 4-6 cloves inside. If you look at the photo above, the clove on the right is a lot smaller than the one on the left. The larger the clove, the larger your garlic will grow. A small clove of garlic will produce a small head of garlic. I often keep the small cloves for eating.
Once you have cracked your garlic its time to plant. I like to add some organic fertilizer to the soil and this year I am topdressing the beds with steer manure. I have always been taught that garlic doesn’t like manure but I have friends who farm garlic and they use manure each year with great results. I am going to give it a try. Once your soil is ready, plant each clove pointed end up about 4″-6″ deep and cover with soil. I space mine about 6″ apart to maximize my crop. Garlic has a pretty good sized root system so avoid planting them any closer together.
Garlic is probably one of the easiest crops to grow in the kitchen garden. Its important to note that it does take nine months until harvest. Its also best grown in the fall so that it goes through a cold period. Garlic planted in the spring doesn’t grow as well here on the west coast. If you look above you will see the garlic on the left right after harvesting and the cleaned garlic on the right. It takes a few weeks after harvest to properly cure and dry the garlic but its so worth it.
For more info on how to grow garlic, check out What to Plant in October.
To learn how to cure and clean your garlic, check out Its Garlic Harvesting Time!