It’s the most wonderful time of the year…(again)!
I am offering garlic once again for fall planting! Last year, I offered them as cloves so that you could decide for yourselves what you wanted, but for most of us, telling the difference between the varieties can get really overwhelming fast. So this year I am offering you a hot mix of garlic at two different quantities.
There are two different garlic types. Softneck and hardneck. Here are my Cole’s notes on the differences:
Hardnecks can handle a “good Canadian winter”. They grow a flower head called a scape that needs to be cut back and can be pickled, eaten fresh, or cooked while you wait upon your bourgeoning bulbs below ground. If you leave the flower heads, they will produce bulbils on the top and can be used to plant more garlic – you just have to wait considerably longer than one winter for it to get to a decent size, and the bulb will be much smaller than expected due to the energy used to make the bulbils at the top.
Softnecks are exactly what the name suggests – it’s soft, and does best in warm climates; This means they can be a hit or miss in Canada, depending on where you live. In other words, you will have to be more conscious of what your hardy zone to make sure it’s a success. Softnecks produce no flowers/scapes. Feel like exercising your inner botanist? This will be an excellent choice for you!
Personally, I like guarantees. And, I like ensuring the smallest margin of failure in a garden. Lets be frank: nature guarantees two things: fluctuating weather, and four seasons. I’m in Canada. It’s cold. Softnecks are ok if you are in Niagara or Vancouver Island, but I’m farther north, so I’d like to take no chances. I get this nagging itch in the back of my mind that says I should really try them some time. But for now: hardnecks.
My family and I have enjoyed garlic all winter long and two braids of 25-30 bulbs each does us very well. I crushed and froze some last year, in case I ended up exhausting my stash mid way and ended up only needing them mid summer while I was waiting for the new crop to be ready!
Here are the varieties I have chosen to offer this year. All varieties are heirloom, fat, plump hardneck beauties that will make the elephant garlic average by comparison. You will notice that most, if not all the cloves are close to the size of a ping pong ball – enormous!
Each bulb will be labelled for you, but for the fun of it, I highly encourage your to mix them up in your garden bed.
- Red Russian – one of the hardiest of the bunch; has beautiful deep red skins with a deep warm flavour. Big strong garlic that finishes with warm a sweet aftertaste. Cloves are massive. One can easily flavour a full meal. Comparably, it takes 2 of the Svea cloves to make one Russian babe. Can average up to 6+ cloves per bulb. BONUS: If you got water-logged soils, these are for you.
- Romanian Red – Romanian Red is a serious, rich garlic in size and taste. The bulbs are a beautiful ivory white with a strong nutty after taste. Each clove will produce a rotund bulb of 4-6 plump cloves.
- Svea – For all the heat-freaks out there, check this out: Svea is strong and hot, hot HOT. Loads of beautiful red-purple streaks with a very plump, decent clove size. These guys love a good Canadian winter, and produces abour 5-8 cloves per bulb
- Crystal White – One of my favourites to grow! I just love the variegated leaves! Can stand out in a garden as an ornamental specimen. And then you get to rip it out and dry for the winter!
- Newfoundland Tall – This is a new one I’m trying. The grower tells me this is vigorous and has great heat! Two of my favourite things.
So How do you grow garlic?
Plant the bulbs between 3-4” deep between now and the end of October. Mulch. This suppresses weeds. I hate straw mulch – mostly because it makes your bed stick out like a sore thumb. But it’s the gold standard in organic mulches. Why?? Because it suppresses weeds, and draws moisture away from tender foliage while remaining pH neutral. The most important thing is weed suppression.
Still hate straw? Get coconut husk mulch. I will be trying wood chips mixed with compost this fall. I’ve been on a regenerative gardening kick lately and while many other gardeners say no to chips, others swear by regenerative methods like this, as weed management and nutrient distribution can be carried out symbiotically this way. Sometimes you just gotta go a distance to figure it out. But just in case: greensand, hen manure and blood meal is going in too.
In the spring: Give your garlic a generous helping of more organic matter (compost) – don’t buy the cheap stuff, it’s full of weed seeds. The spring thaw will wake them up, while the compost will give them a boost of much needed nutrients. Keep them watered regularly.
In the summer: Cut the scapes (the flower heads) after they have curled completely. This will redirect their energy to bulb production. Pull them out when 2/3 of the leaves have died back (you might want to use a perennial shovel to do it, as the bulbs will bruise easy). Dry in a shady airy spot. I use the garage or under my carport. Don’t worry about squirrels or other rodents; they don’t like them.
All of my garlic comes from certified organic, local growers. One of these growers I will feature in one of my upcoming spotlights so you can go directly to them for large orders or more options.
If you’re in the Toronto area, and would like to order some, head to the store and pick whether you want 5 bulbs or 10. Each bulb contains 6 cloves for planting. If you got a really small space and want to try far less than 30 cloves in your garden, send me an email and we will work that out!