Planting Garlic in New England
by Jean English

Garlic planting season is coming!
Mid- to late-October is the time to
plant individual cloves of garlic in the ground in northern New England so
September is the time to make sure you have cloves to plant. After they're
planted, the cloves send out roots before the ground freezes, then, in spring,
send up green shoots and produce multiple cloves within a bulb below ground.

If you've never planted garlic before, the Maine
Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
(MOFGA) urges you to try some this year.
You can buy bulbs from Maine's seed companies,
such as Fedco and Johnny's, either through
their catalogs or at their booths at MOFGA's
Common Ground Country Fair, or you can buy
bulbs from several  vendors at the Fair's Farmers'
Market or Agricultural Booths.

How to Plant Garlic

Take the bulbs home, separate them into
individual cloves, and plant the cloves about
5 inches deep and 4 inches apart in a fertile soil. Around Thanksgiving, put
about 4 inches of mulch (straw, leaves or other organic material) on the planting.

In the spring, remove the mulch. As the garlic grows, keep the soil moist and
fertile (by applying an inch or so of compost to the ground, for instance).

If you've planted a stiff-neck garlic, such as the Rocambole type, each plant will
send up a flower stalk that curls around and produces small garlic bulbils at the
end. The common advice is to remove these stalks (also known as "scapes") once
they begin to curl around, in order to direct the energy of the plant toward
growing larger bulbs, rather than toward producing bulbils at the top of the
plant.

You might want to keep scapes on a few plants, however. The bulbils can be
harvested from these and sown in pots in late fall to produce on your
windowsill what MOFGA-certified organic grower Tom Roberts calls "garlic
grass" during the winter -- greens that you can clip, like chives, a couple of times
and use to season soups and other dishes. Bulbils can also be planted, like garlic
cloves, in the soil outdoors in October. By early the next year, they'll have
produced what Roberts calls "garlic scallions."  In two years, they'll produce
garlic bulbs. (Individual cloves, on the other hand, take only one year to
produce large bulbs.)

Any scapes that you do cut can be chopped and used in stir-fries or to make
garlic flavored vinegar. For the latter, just soak the scapes in white vinegar for a
month or two, then remove the scapes and enjoy the vinegar on salads.
(
Click here for a delicious recipe using garlic scapes and pea tendrils).

When the bottom two or three leaves of garlic plants lose their green color (in
late July or early August, usually), it's time to harvest the bulbs. Pull or dig the
bulbs carefully and dry them for about a week in a shaded place. Then cut back
the tops, rub off any soil clinging to the bulbs, and store the bulbs until you're
ready to eat them.

Some garlic comes with a history. The Phillips variety, for example, is a
Rocambole type that Molly Thorkildsen and Will Bonsall of the Scatterseed
Project in Industry, Maine, acquired from Raymond Rowe of Phillips, Maine,
who acquired it from a man living in Rome, N.Y., whose ancestors brought it
from Italy in the early 1820s, when they came to work on the Erie Canal. Thanks
to the efforts of the Maine Seed Saving Exchange, the Scatterseed Project, and
Maine's garlic growers and seed companies, the variety is increasing in
popularity.  It's known for its large heads of six to eight cloves that are easy to
peel and store longer than most other
varieties -- sometimes for a year or more.

This article is provided by the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
(MOFGA), PO Box 170, Unity, ME  04988; 207-568-4142;
mofga@mofga.org;
www.mofga.org. Joining MOFGA helps support and promote organic farming and
gardening in Maine and helps Maine consumers enjoy more healthful, Maine-grown food.
The Heart of New England
Celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine ~ New Hampshire ~ Vermont
The Heart of New England
Grow garlic!
©The Heart of New England online magazine
...celebrating the unique character & culture of Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont!
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