Being an Italian-American from Waterbury, Connecticut who likes to cook, I eat a lot of garlic. Luckily for me, growing garlic is almost as easy as eating it.
Growing your own garlic offers some distinct advantages. You can try unusual varieties with spicy hot to almost a nutty flavor. You can grow softneck varieties for braiding; hardneck varieties for their curlycue, green scapes in early summer; and elephant garlic for its huge bulbs with a mild flavor.
You don’t you need a farm to grow garlic. I can produce more than 25 bulbs in a three-by-five-foot bed. That’s a lot of garlic, even by my standards. Plus: the flavor of fresh garlic is much better than anything you buy in stores.
The first step is to plant now. Purchase garlic bulbs for our region from your local garden center or farmer’s market. Don’t try growing bulbs from the grocery store. Those are Californian varieties that don’t grow well here. Look for varieties such as New York White, Inchelium Red, Russian Red, and German Extra Hardy.
Create a raised bed in full sun. The one thing that kills garlic fast is cold, wet soils.
A day before planting, break apart the bulbs and place the cloves in a bowl to cure. Plant individual cloves, flat end down, two inches deep and six inches apart in the bed, and water well.
Wait until November to mulch with a four-to-six-inch-thick layer of hay or straw. Then just leave them.
Next spring, remove the mulch once they start growing, fertilize, and let them grow until you harvest in July.
Next week I’ll be talking about canna lilies. Until then I’ll be seeing you in the garden.