Plant Easy-To-Grow Garlic Now

By Lois Hole

Love it or hate it, almost everyone knows the taste of garlic but few people realize how easy it is to grow.

Over the years, we have discovered that the secret of growing the largest garlic bulbs is to plant in late August for a harvest the following year. These plants need a long growing season - five to six months - in order to mature to a good size. You can also plant garlic in spring but the earlier, the better. They will not be harmed if the weather turns cold again; garlic can freeze and still grow when the weather warms.

Each clove of garlic grows into a bulb containing 10 to 20 cloves. The largest cloves produce the largest bulbs, so save the small cloves for use in the kitchen. Plant only the firm healthy cloves.

Garlic is so easy to plant as it is to grow. Separate bulbs into cloves and choose a sunny site in the garden. Simply push each clove into the ground to about the depth of your second knuckle, firm the soil around it and water. The pointed end must be up, or it will not grow.

If you’re planting in rows, allow two to three inches between cloves. Try to find a spot where garlic or other members of the onion family were not recently grown.

The cloves can also be planted in a flowerbed by poking in amongst growing plants. Garlic takes up little space while growing and its tall, onion-like leaves add interest. It has been reported that roses benefit from interplanting with garlic, but I have found that the garlic plants are often the ones that do better. This is most likely due to the sunny location and constant watering and fertilizing that roses usually receive.

Garlic is, however, reputed to be a good companion to other plants for its insect-repelling qualities. Scientists have been unable to prove this, but they do know that garlic naturally contains some fungicidal chemicals and feeding deterrents. A woman I know plants garlic throughout her vegetable garden and tucks a few plants in her flowerbeds. She uses no insecticides and has very few problems with bugs. I am sure that one of the reasons is the interplantings of garlic.

In the spring when leaves begin to grow, fertilize the plants with a high nitrogen fertilizer (fertilizers are labeled with three numbers- the first indicates the percentage of nitrogen.) Pull out any weeds to reduce competition for moisture and nutrients.

When flowerstalks appear next summer, nip them off to allow the plant to devote more energy to the developing bulbs. Use the flowers for a pretty and zesty addition to salads and vegetable dishes.

Allow tops to fall over on their own. Bending them down in late summer can cause new shoots to form and delay rather than promote early maturity. Stop watering the plants toward the end of August. Allowing the soil to dry out around the maturing bulbs will improve storage quality.

Dig the plants out and leave them on top of the ground for several days if weather is warm and dry; otherwise, allow the plants to dry in a warm, dry basement or garage. The roots can be rubbed off when dry if you like although it is not necessary.

Once your garlic plants have become extremely dry, store them in braids or bunches, or cut off the stems about two to three inches above the bulbs. Do not wash or separate cloves until you are ready to use them. Store the majority on slatted shelves or screens.

In the kitchen, keep a small supply of bulbs in a wire basket, garlic pot, or any container that allows air circulation. Do not keep garlic in the refrigerator as humid conditions cause bulbs to sprout.

To make garlic easier to peel, press against it with the flat side of a knife. And one of the best ways to counteract ‘garlic breath’ is by chewing a sprig of fresh parsley immediately after eating.

Planting Garlic and Irises in the Fall

Not everyone thinks of September as the time to plant things (most people are too busy harvesting their vegetable gardens), but for spring flowering bulbs, September and October are THE time to get things into the ground.

Irises are one of the fall bulbs that benefit from being planted first thing in September and we have some great new varieties available. Here are a few of our favourites on our shelves right now.

"Blue Suede Shoes" is a rich, gorgeously coloured, blue bearded iris. Blue flowers are hard to come by whether they are annuals or perennials, so to have a bulb that will come back in blue year-after-year is a pure delight.

As a bonus, this is a particularly fragrant iris and will rebloom as well. What more can you ask for? These blue suede shoes will leave you dancing with joy.

Another reblooming bearded iris, "Ancient Echoes" has some beautiful fiery colours. These flowers will add some striking contrast to your garden and will visually pop-out from quite a distance. Great for front yards if your goal is to get the neighborhood's attention!

Finally, a bit more of an elegant bearded iris, this "Bountiful Harvest" variety will also rebloom, making it ideal for cutflowers. Great for a more graceful style, consider this one if you like to have a classically beautiful garden.


Fall is also a great time to plant garlic.

"Duganski" is a new variety for us this year, and it is fiery! Featuring purple stripes, it has a mellow aftertaste and is a great variety to plant if you like to cook with garlic a lot.

"German Hardneck" is another variety with a milder taste. If you like roasted garlic fresh out of the oven, this is THE garlic variety to use and plant as it roasts beautifully.

Finally, we also have "Elephant Garlic." While this is technically a member of the leek family, you'd never know it as it looks just like a very large garlic bulb and can be used in the same way. It is especially good raw because of its mild garlic taste... so if you're looking to make a pesto, tapenade, bruschetta, or salad, this is definitely a good variety to consider.