Ah, Garlic: food, spice and cure without equal!
The taste and texture of homegrown or local garlic is far superior to commercial fare and generally grows better in our climate than in more southern ones. Canada imports virtually all its garlic, so it's high time we made garlic a Canadian celebration.
Optimum planting is from September to mid-October or several weeks before hard frosts.
Choose a sunny location. Garlic will do well in many types of soil but appreciates rich, well-drained, sandy loam with plenty of humus. For poor and acidic soil, dig in compost or aged manure along with wood ashes, dolomite lime or crushed oyster shells.
Separate the bulbs into cloves and plant them, pointed-end up, a few inches below the surface and 4-5 inches apart. They can be planted in rows, double rows or intensive beds with 5 or 6 plants across. A mulch of straw and/or snow enables the roots to get growing during the winter months and to emerge early in spring.
Garlic does best without weed competition. Moisture is usually adequate from fall through spring and one rarely has to water unless May or June is dry. Pests or diseases seldom bother garlic but it is important to rotate your crop each year.
The flowering tops are cut in June to encourage bulb growth and can be chopped for salads or hot dishes.
For best curing, do not water after the third week of June.
The bulbs are ready to harvest when the tops are half brown in the second half of July. My habit is to expose bulbs to direct sun for only half a day to dry the outer coat. We then hang them in bundles in an airy shed and let them cure for three weeks before we cut off the bulbs, clean them and send them to you.
Once you have a garlic variety, you need never order it again. (If you can refrain from eating it all!) No cross-pollination happens with garlic. The cloves will produce bulbs just like the ones from which they came.
The best way to store garlic over winter is out of direct sunlight in even conditions of temperature and humidity. Hang them in bunches or braids or keep them in open baskets but don't store them in the fridge or in closed containers.
Soft Necks have a stalk that ends above the cloves instead of being surrounded by them. They are easier to braid than Hard Necks but cloves are generally smaller and more variable. Hard Necks or Rocamboles have a hard stalk that is surrounded by large, wedge-shaped, easy-to-peel cloves.
Complete databases of all our garlic varieties can be viewed at www.seedsanctuary.com