A Sure Sign of Spring

Posted on March 21, 2009

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One of the first signs of spring each year is my garlic pushing up from beneath a deep layer of fall leaves. It is a cause of celebration and a good indication that this will be a good year for eating. I use a lot of garlic in my cooking, so great garlic has a big impact on the dish. I am to the point where my home-grown garlic supplies about six months of consumption. At the current cost of garlic, this saves me quite a bit of money not to mention that the garlic tastes better than what you can buy in the store.

Garlic is fairly easy to grow. Each year in late October I plant about 60 garlic cloves and then cover them with a deep layer of grass clippings and leaves. This layer of vegetation protects the garlic over the long winter. During the bitterly cold months the garlic establishes a root system and waits for the combination of heat and water that signal spring is here. In late February the garlic starts sending up shoots that push skyward slowly. Come May the rate of growth increases rapidly until the plants are around three feet high. Garlic requires very little ongoing maintenance other than an occassional watering. I cut off the flowers that start to appear at the top of the stalks, though there is debate as to whether this is even important. Once the plants have died back about 2/3 down the stalk, it is time to dig up the bulbs (usually in late July).
Usually for every 60 cloves I plant I get about 55 bulbs with 6 to 10 cloves each. I save the big bulbs in good condition for planting that October and put all of the smaller and damaged bulbs in the refrigerator for use that year.
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Posted in: Garden