On Thursday October 24th, Dig In! held a garlic planting workshop at Hart House. Garlic planting time is always a nice activity to do at the end of the growing season and is a reminder of the cyclical nature of growing. Check out our posts on garlic scapes and garlic harvesting to gain an understanding of the garlic growing, harvesting, and planting cycle.
Mid-autumn (mid to late October) is the best time to plant garlic here in southern Ontario. The idea is you want the garlic to start forming roots before real winter comes, then in spring the bulbs already have a head start to begin growing delicious garlic bulbs.
It’s these beautiful garlic heads (above) that we dried and stored in the Dig In! office at 21 Sussex over the summer that we planted last week. Store harvested garlic in a space that gets some light, and is well ventilated. Tying your garlic into bundles with some string or twine, then hanging them will help them dry properly. This process is called ‘curing’. On farms, garlic will often get cured inside greenhouses for 1 – 2 weeks. Once cured, clip the dried stalks off, leaving a 1 – 2 inch stem to make separating the cloves easier.
Workshop participants help separate each head of garlic into individual cloves to be planted separately. Garlic is an amazing plant to grow and save seed from. It has the potential to multiply exponentially from year to year. We harvested 119 heads of garlic in July. Each head was comprised 4 – 6 cloves, which gave us a minimum of 476 cloves. Each clove will make a new head of garlic if planted! Needless to say, we don’t have space to plant that much garlic, so participants got to take some home to plant and/or cook with.
The soil we planted in was prepped by loosening it with a spading fork, and then adding some compost from our composter at Hart House. Garlic is easy to plant! Plant individual cloves about 2 – 2.5 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Space rows 8 – 12 inches apart for maximum growth of bulbs.
A Dig In! member supplied us with 27 different varieties of garlic to grow that he selected at this year’s Garlic Festival at Evergreen Brickworks. This will be an amazing experiment for observation of differences in plant growth, appearance, and taste. Garlic tasting anyone?
We made sure to label the different garlic varieties using plant ID labels. We also created a map to ensure we know which variety is which come spring in case labels go missing. Check out the names of the varieties we planted below. Did you know that Elephant garlic is actually a type of leek that produces bulbs?
Cover your planted garlic with a nice thick layer (4 – 6 inches) of mulch. We happened to get this straw donated from the UTSU Sustainability Commission and Vic College (thanks!!) Leaves work just as well and are readily available this time of year! Rake ’em up, or find some brown bags full curbside. The mulch protects the garlic from any hard frosts which could potentially heave the cloves out of the ground (we wouldn’t want that.) Mulch also helps suppress weeds, keeps moisture in, and adds organic matter to the soil as it decomposes.
A big thanks goes out to Kevin Draper for supplying so many amazing varieties of garlic for us to plant and get to know, and to Jason Oakley for sharing their comprehensive knowledge of garlic and the Allium family with workshop participants. Thanks also to all who came out to the workshop! It’s going to be a great crop of garlic next year!
For more info and tips on garlic growing: