November 8, 2011 -
Grab your garlic, folks! It’s planting time!
Who doesn’t love a little garlic in their lives? Here at Spice, we can’t live without it. To prepare for the restaurant opening, we’re in full-blown menu planning mode. It came as no surprise that homegrown garlic is one of our key ingredients, slated to make an appearance in fries, aiolis, wing sauces, pastas, pizzas and a million other delicious things. So, we decided to plant a few more rows to keep up with kitchen demand.
Here are some garlic planting tips & tricks that we’ll share at our upcoming Natural History of Garlic Dinner at The Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Planting time: In Ohio, Autumn planting is common, sometime around the first frost between mid-October thru mid-November. Europeans often plant on the shortest day of the year, but more for symbolic reasons than horticultural ones. You can also plant in very early spring (March or April), but this practice is more common to Southern states.
Where: Sunny areas with fertile, crumbly soil that has lots of organic matter.
Harvest time: First shoots should appear in early Spring. You can dig up (not pull up!) the bulbs once the stems start to dry.
#1: There are said to be over 600 cultivated sub-varieties of garlic in the world. Do a bit of research to understand the different characteristics, varying between flavor and function. This week, we’re planting Khabar for its spicy and robust flavor, and a few rows of Ben’s Grandpa Boom’s garlic that we rescued from his old home in Parma.
#2: We’ve heard that garlic does well with fertilizer but since we don’t use it, we chose to turn our soil with high amounts of kitchen compost and manure from a few generous horses in Strongsville. Regardless, the soil must be kept evenly moist because dry soil causes irregularly shaped bulbs. Heavy clay soils also create misshaped bulbs and make harvesting difficult.
#3: Garlic should be planted 3-5 inches apart. For easy tracking, quicker planting, and to make the most of the space available in each row, create a simple garlic gig that can act as your guide. For this one, we used zip ties to connect bamboo sticks in 20 minutes flat. This is not an essential step, but after a few flips of the gig, you’ll find that your planting efforts really pick up the pace.
#4: Take this step right before you’re ready to plant because early separation can result in decreased yields. The larger outer cloves make the best garlic. Make sure each one is smooth, flat and free of disease.
#5: Drive a strong stick (here, we used an extra bamboo stick from our gig), 1/2 to 1 inch into the ground in the center of each square of your gig.
#6: Plant your clove in an upright position at the base of the hole to ensure that the neck with grow straight. Cover with soil.
#7: Whether they’re your own or a neighbor’s, kids can sometimes make the planting process go faster…and always make the job more entertaining!
#8: Garlic is generally winter hardy, but it can be damaged if the temperatures are cold and the snow cover thin. Straw acts as a light blanket to protect your crop over the months to come.
Happy growing! Tell us about your favorite garlic varieties. Or, if you have any new tips and tricks, we’d love to hear them here or on our Facebook page.