This page is dedicated to all those who love garlic - and wish to learn a bit more about how to grow, care for and cook with this versatile root.
As a "new Canadian", brought up in post war England - exotic foods like pasta or ravioli and foreign foods like pizza and maple syrup were totally unknown. We knew about the different spices; I mean, curry powder was a way to disguise the fact that in our pre-electric farmhouse, the meat might not be as fresh as it should be!
But garlic - well only those foreigners across the Channel ate that!
So when I came to Canada 16 years ago, I was surprised and pleased to realise that garlic was an interesting plant to both grow and cook with.
Over the years since I started growing garlic here in Halton, Ontario I have put together a degree of knowledge and expertise. If you would like me to share this with you, please email (email@example.com) and I will gladly send you a copy of:
Busy Liz's Hint Sheet - Garlic Growing 1-0-1.
This useful 4-page pamphlet gives you background information, hints on growing and caring for your garlic and the year at a glance. (I would put it here, but its a bit long to be on the website!)
Now is the time to get out into the garden and see how your garlic has fared over the winter. The garlic, planted in the fall of last year, should be showing above the ground by now. If you covered your crop with a mulch of straw or dead leaves, you should pull this back from the plant about 2" / 3" either side. Leave the mulch around the garlic and it will act as a weed suppressant.
There was a lot of snow and ice this year and the mulch will have retained all that moisture, so even though the top surface of the mulch is dry, down at soil level, there is still a lot damp straw or leaves, which will impede the growth of the first green shoots. Be careful as you remove the wet mulch, it is easy to snap off the first tender shoots. (This will not stop the garlic bulb from growing, but it will give it a set-back).
To give your garlic a little extra boost, you can apply a little liquid nitrogen to the base of the plants. Use a knap-sack sprayer or a watering can, with the majority of the head covered (duct tape works well) - and spray or pour a small amount of liquid N either side of the row. Be careful not to allow the nitrogen to actually touch the green leaves, as it will leave a nitrogen burn. Ideally, spray about 3" / 4" either side of the plants, before a rain. This will wash the nitrogen into the soil and the growing parlic bulbs will easily seek it out.
We have been having really good growing weather recently - warm and sunny, with plenty of rain, ideal spring weather. Check the weed control - garlic do not like to compete heavily with other plants.
Hoe out any small weeds from between the plants and lightly cultivate down the rows to remove those pesky annual weeds. This will not only impede the production of seed heads on the weeds but stop next year's weedcrop as well!
Late June /July
The first week of July and by now I hope everyone who is growing hard neck garlic** will have noticed the scapes curling at the top of your garlic plants. These should be snapped off immediately. (NB: Remember the date you removed your scapes - it will have a bearing on when you harvest your crop.) Potentially, scapes will develop into flowers and then the garlic plant will produce a seed head. YOU DO NOT WANT THIS!
What you want is for your plant to concentrate on growing you a large bulb underground and not a seed head waving in the wind.
However, all is not lost with your garlic scape - you can use it for any cooking recipe where you want the rich, fresh flavour of garlic - or you can even freeze them in airtight bags and pull them out of the freezer in the depths of winter to add to casseroles and soups.
If you allow a few scapes to remain they will form into flower and then seed heads. Remove from the stem when they are more mature. See recipes below for ways to use these garlic seeds.
**So what if you are growing a soft neck variety? Well, these varieties do not produce a scape, so you will not have to worry. However, you may want to come to Busy Liz's Farm Shop (or a farmers market near you) - to buy some of these delicious alternatives to fresh garlic for yourselves.