| Plant Your Garlic NOW!
I normally try and follow every garden superstition, like planting my peas on the 'lucky' date of St. Patrick's Day. After all, who needs luck more than us gardeners? But I recently had the privilege of interviewing a very talented '87-year young' Italian gardener; and of course, I asked if he planted his garlic on the 'lucky' date of Columbus Day in October. Through an interpreter, he told me that only non-Italians would be foolish enough to wait that long. He told me HE plants his garlic on the first day the kids go back to school and harvests it when they bring home their final report card. Many professional garlic growers agree; they say they get better results with September plantings. So the heck with Columbus; let's get ready to get some garlic in the ground!
Garlic is easy and fun to grow; for every clove you plant, you harvest a full-sized head filled with cloves. Now, to get nice big heads that will store well into the winter, you must plant those cloves in the Fall, like Spring blooming bulbs. But, unlike Spring bulbs, which should NOT be planted till at least Halloween in the North and much later down South, you'll get better garlic if you plant earlier than most people recommend--anytime this month (September) is ideal for the North; next month for the South. You should be able to find planting garlic at better garden centers and farmers markets; and I'll post the best mail orders sources for great gourmet garlics a little further down. Don't bother with supermarket garlic unless its organically grown; the regular kind has been treated not to sprout.
Do you love cooking with fresh garlic, but get all your cloves at the supermarket? You're cheating yourself out an ultimate kitchen experience--dishes that really soar with the fabulous flavors and colors of gourmet garlics. And NOW is the time to get and plant them! Forget those all-white supermarket bulbs from California or China; you'll harvest beauties streaked with purple or red; varieties that produce giant, easy-to-peel cloves; and old heirloom types that range from very mild flavor to garlicky-beyond belief, and from completely non-spicy to as fiery as hot peppers. Romanian red; Spanish roja; German white and Italian purple are just a few of the many excellent varieties out there.
Here's how to plant to get nice big fat heads filled with those pungent cloves that are so good for our health and great in the kitchen. Just take a head of garlic, carefully break it into individual cloves, and plant each clove pointy end up about six inches deep (two inches of soil overtop of the clove) in rich, loose soil, with about six inches between each clove. Your garlic will send up green shoots this Fall, go dormant over winter, and then resume growing when the weather warms up next Spring. Late next Spring hardneck varieties will send up a central stalk; clip the little bulge off the top and eat these tasty treats. Then harvest the bulbs when the leaves start to brown (begin checking sample bulbs when a quarter of the plants' leaves are no longer green)--generally in late June or early July in the North; May to June down South.
Sources For Great Planting Garlics:
Special Info For Our Southern Listeners!:
The Spring bulb catalogs are rolling in, reminding us that soon it will be time to plant--soon, but not yet. Yes, those catalogs often contain tempting discounts for folks who order early; and many retailers already have bulbs out on display in their stores--but it's still much too warm to plant them. Go ahead and take advantage of those catalog offers, and get the pick of the litter at garden centers; but then store the bulbs in a cool, dry place with good air circulation till the right time to plant, which is between Halloween and Thanksgiving in the North and between Thanksgiving and Christmas down South. Oh, and stay tuned to YBYG, of course, and we'll offer lots of great bulb planting suggestions a little later in the season.
Here's the only link you'll need to pick the perfect bulbs for your region: www.bulb.com! Advice, information, sources--it's all there! I suggest you start here: http://www.bulb.com/map/index.asp; just click where you live on the map, and it'll tell you what types of Spring blooming bulbs--and even specific varieties--do best in your area! They also offer great basic warm weather planting advice: http://www.bulb.com/spring/likehot.asp, and lots and lots of other neat stuff.
So quick--get your bulbs in hand to get the best possible specimens! And then...wait.