Music ready to harvest at Hood River Garlic.
July 16 , 2008
The Garlic Calendar - A year round guide for growing garlic in your own garden. Tips on growing your own garlic, planting your garlic, irrigating garlic plants, when to harvest your garlic, how to store and cure your garlic and much more!
Here is a month by month guide to help you learn how to grow garlic. Growing garlic is fun for the whole family and we are happy to help you grow your own garlic. Our gourmet organic garlic can either be eaten or used for planting garlic stock in the fall. (fall planting garlic starts in October, so does our calendar!)
Note: See our Photo Gallery for a sequential view of the garlic season.
Quick links to each month:
Choosing organic garlic seed stock
When your package of certified organic Hood River Garlic arrives, open the box immediately! Your garlic planting stock needs some fresh air after its journey to your garden. It is not necessary to break open the bulbs until you are ready for planting garlic. Keep your organic garlic seed cool and dry until you are ready to plant. The box it arrived in is fine, just keep the box open.
We wait until the day before planting our garlic to separate the cloves from the bulbs. Breaking apart the bulbs may cause some skin to fall off the cloves. Please note: It is not necessary to peel the garlic cloves before planting. It is OK if the skin to falls off of a few cloves, you just don't want the clove exposed for too long before planting garlic.
To break open bulbs: Take the whole bulb into one hand and use the other hand to break the cloves apart from each other. I like to wear gloves because it takes a lot of strength.
When sorting your organic garlic seed, choose only the largest cloves per bulb for planting stock. Save the small cloves to eat. The variety of garlic you are planting will determine how many cloves you yield per bulb. IE: Chesnok Red has 10-12 cloves per bulb, with large outer cloves and small inner cloves. Siberian is a personal favorite because the cloves are huge. Remember, the bigger the seed, the bigger the plant will become. Once you have your garlic cloves separated from the garlic bulbs you are ready to plant your garlic!
In order t o grow nice sized bulbs, your bed preparation is very important. You want to work the soil so it is loose and loamy. Till your planting area if needed. Next, you are ready to amend your soil. There are many different ways to add organic matter into your garden. You can add compost, manure, decomposed leaves, etc. We use a mixture of all of the above. Once added, till into your beds and your soil will be ready for planting your garlic.
Planting Garlic Seed
Now that you have sorted out all the largest garlic seed stock and the beds are prepped, you are ready for planting garlic!
Here in the Northwest, as a rule of thumb, we start planting garlic before Halloween. You don't want to wait too long into November, because the garlic seed likes to be in the ground before it freezes. In Hood River County, our approximate first frost date is October 9th and freeze date is October 23rd.
If you miss your freeze date, never fear! We have planted in some pretty frosty beds before and it is just a little uncomfortable for the planter. The garlic will be fine, just give it a good pat into the earth, and cover it nicely with a blanket of mulch. Eric and I have both been known for our extreme gardening...When we are out planting garlic in the snow and freezing rain! My motto is, if you have the space and garlic seed available, then plant it!
To plant you garlic seed, bring all your seed to the garden, being careful to keep your varieties separate so that they do not get mixed up. I charge $10 per phone call in July to tell you what varieties you have planted and garlic descriptions...Just kidding! Plant garlic cloves one at a time, right side up (pointy ends up). You want to push the garlic seed into the dirt about 3-4 inches into the earth, allowing 2 inches of dirt covering the tip of the clove. Allow 3 inches in colder climates. I take a clove between my thumb and forefingers and push down, pushing down the length of my thumb. Pull out your hand, pat down the dirt and you've planted your first organic garlic seed!
HINTS- Vinyl gloves work great for planting garlic. They are thin enough to feel the cloves, ensuring that you are planting tips up! In colder weather conditions, I use thin rubber gloves by Wells Lamont.
After tucking all your organic garlic seed into its winter bed, it likes a nice blanket of mulch. Old partially decomposed leaves work great, old seedless straw is also a great mulch. Spread mulch about six inches thick.
Our 2006 planting season ended on November 26th. Just 12 hours before the garlic fields were blanketed in snow! This year we planted in late October, 2011. It varies from year to year depending on the weather pattern. Many people contact me in November and December asking if it is too late for planting garlic. You can plant as late as needed. Our friend has planted over 20 pounds in January for the last two years. You will want your garlic to be in the ground for 9 months to reach it's fullest maturity. So if you have garlic seed, plant it!
If your fields are not covered with snow, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for voles, moles and gophers, these rodents can put a damper on your garlic harvest if they become a problem.
As far as organic rodent control, try a big hungry outdoor cat. Sonic gopher deterrents are available at your local hardware and garden store.
Now it is time to kick back and wait for spring. December is an easy month for growing garlic. There is nothing to do but think about your wonderful garlic harvest six or seven months away.
We start taking preseason orders for the fall planting season in January, so get your garlic wish list together and order your garlic for fall delivery. We sell out of the popular varieties very quickly, so don't wait too long! Depending on where you live will determine when your garlic plants begin to pop out of the ground. Your garlic may still be covered with snow.
No matter what the weather pattern is our garlic plants begins to pop up late January, early February.
1-30-07 - Hood River Garlic
We are very excited about our New Arrivals!
Did you remember to order your garlic seed for the fall planting season?... Now in February the garlic plant will be at any stage of just popping up out of the ground to four inches, depending on your climate. But most of all the garlic variety, Turbans and Artichokes are always the first to surface.
Many people have asked about new growth and frost. Growing garlic in the Northwest we tend to have some warm weather in January and February. Garlic plants may have big growth spurts. Then when the weather turns cold again the tips of the garlic plants get exposed to snow and frost. There is no need to worry about the frost damaging your new garlic plants. Garlic plants are extremely hardy, the frost may turn the tips of the green plants yellow, but it does not harm the growth of your garlic plant.
If your plants are taller then 4 or 5 inches and you know a hard frost is coming, you could add some extra mulch to get through the cold spell. Just be sure to clear it away when the weather gets warm and the days start to get longer. Allowing the garlic plant to get all the sunshine it can while the days are still short.
Sometimes we have to clear away excess mulch that is depriving the garlic plant from sunshine. Gently pull away the mulch exposing the top of the plant, leaving the dirt, and base of plant covered with mulch. Often the garlic plant could be yellowish from not seeing the sun. It will turn to green as soon as the sun shines on it.
If you have not ordered your garlic seed yet, don't delay! We sell out of our most popular varieties by the end of March.
Depending on your location and the local weather conditions, March is often time to begin weeding..(not in 2014 though! Most of the country is covered in snow...). Just keep an eye on your garlic. Make sure when you look at your garden you are growing garlic and not a lot of weeds. Garlic does not like weeds.
At the end of March, the garlic is getting ready for a foliage feed. Spraying garlic plants with a nice organic foliage feed will really benefit your crop. Fertilizers include, sea kelp. seabird guano, fish emulsion (make sure fish emulsion is OMNI approved). We sell a nice assortment of soil amendments and foliage feed by Supreme Growers.
Depending on the weather, it's time to prepare your beds for irrigating garlic. Our irrigation water in Hood River is turned on mid April. Unless Mother Nature has been watering garlic for you, it's a good idea to water your garden yourself. Just remember to keep the soil moist during this growth period.
Garlic will start to form flowers called "bulbils". These bulbils grow on scapes. In order for your garlic to put the energy into the bulb, rather than the flower, it is necessary to snap off the garlic scape.
When the garlic scape begins to grow, it will be a tiny shoot coming from the center of the plant (see image on right) it will look different from the other leaves, because the leaves are flat and the scape is round with a pointy tip. The scape will start growing straight up to about 10 inches tall and 1/8 of an inch thick. Then it will take a U-Turn and start growing down. The next few days, it will begin to curl, when the scape gets into a full curl (when the flower meets the stem again) it will be ready to pop. This should be the end of May to mid June. After popping it off, you should have a scape at least 8 to 9 inches long (including the flower). Please note: they are called flowers, but they don't look like flowers yet. Try this fun experiment and keep a few in tact and set in a jar without water. The scapes will actually bloom and there you will see the bulbils.
Do not discard your garlic scapes, you can eat them! Sauteed organic garlic scapes are wonderful when fresh. Chop scapes into 1/2 inch pieces up to flower, discard flower. Saute garlic scapes with some olive oil and chopped onion until tender. Sprinkle garlic scapes with Balsamic vinegar and enjoy! Eat your sauteed garlic scapes as a side dish or over pasta. See Garlic Recipes for some garlic scape recipes. Also add them to any dish of sauteed vegetables for garlic flavor. Garlic scapes are best eaten when they are young and tender. If you wait too long to pop them off the garlic plant they become tough and woody. The best time to eat them is when the scape has just started to curl and the flower is still enclosed.
The month of June is spent weeding, watering and popping garlic scapes while anxiously awaiting your wonderful garlic harvest. Harvest time is the best part of growing garlic, it is also is the time when all of your garlic lover friends show up to help.
When the leaves of the garlic plant begin to turn brown, it is time for harvesting garlic. You want to harvest your garlic when the plant has three to four fairly strong green leaves remaining.
Keep an eye on your softnecks because they will be ready to harvest earlier than the hardnecks, especially the Early Italian Red and Susanville. Red Janice and Japanese are early harvesters for hardneck garlic.
Now is the moment you've been waiting for! Our Northwest garlic harvest annually begins around the third week of June for the softneck garlic and July 1st for hardneck garlic. Harvest garlic plants with three to four brown leaves first and don't be alarmed if all the plants are not ready at the same time. Harvesting garlic takes weeks here at Hood River Garlic.
The way we harvest garlic is one at a time with a shovel. Set the shovel far enough away from the bulb so the garlic doesn't get nicked by the blade when coming out of the dirt. The force of the leverage on the shovel can sometimes scrape the outer skin of the bulb. We call these shovel hits. Family and friends are always happy to take a bundle home with them.
Our technique of removing the garlic from the ground is to have one person run the shovel (usually the person with the least amount of shovel hits!) and the other person following behind, gently pulling the garlic from the bed.
When the garlic comes out of the earth it will have a big clump of dirt attached. Brush dirt clump off (I like to wear gloves because otherwise the dirt sucks all the moisture out of my skin) softly, picking dirt balls out of the roots and set gently down on the ground. It is important not to bang bulbs together because it could cause bruising. Always handle your precious organic garlic with care. The garlic is tied into bundles of 10 to 12 plants, depending on the size. We recycle the bailing twine from Spots' (our horse) hay bales. You want a string that is strong and you can really tie a good knot with. Tying into bundles, it is important not to tie too high or too low. If you tie too low you can't hang them on the rack. If you tie too high, the stalks shrink after drying and the garlic may slip out the bottom. We tie right where the plant turns from green to brown.
Now that your organic garlic is tied up in bundles of 10 to 12, it's time to start curing garlic. Eric stretches bailing twine across the barn so we can split the bundle and hand it over the string (see photos of Eric hanging garlic in Photo Gallery). It takes about two weeks for curing garlic to really get the best flavor.
To know when to start cleaning your garlic choose a test garlic and cut off the stalk about one inch from the top of the bulb.
We call this your test garlic because you are testing for moisture content. You want the stalk to be dry after the shears cut the stalk. You can test for dryness by gently squeezing the remaining one inch of stalk. If you see any moisture, the garlic is not quite ready for cleaning.
Your garlic cleaning will have to wait, but now you can eat your test garlic!
Wait a few more days and try another test garlic. When the stalk is dry after cutting your garlic has been cured to perfection.
After cutting off the stalk, snip off the roots about 1/4 inch from the bottom of the bulb. Once the stalk and the roots are removed brush off any excess dirt, but be careful and leave the outer skin intact. This helps your garlic from drying out too much.
After harvesting your beautiful garlic, it is important to store it properly.
The garlic stores best in a cool dry place away from direct sunlight. Keeping it at a constant 50 - 55 degrees will help to store your garlic for a long time. Good air circulation is good; don't store your garlic too deep in a tray or box, this will hinder your circulation around each bulb. Use a shallow tray and store the garlic one or two deep. (see photo above) We use clean, plastic nursery trays, with slotted bottoms. The plastic works well in the fall when there is more humidity. Cardboard may retain water and absorb into the garlic you store.
Now is the time you've been waiting for! You are rewarded by your bountiful harvest and ready to cook with all the wonderful organic garlic that you have grown from seed. See Recipe pages for great ideas about storing extra garlic.
Organic Weed Control
After all your garlic is harvested, cleaned and hanging to cure, it is time to
start getting your garlic beds ready for your new batch of organic seed to arrive from Hood River Garlic! We like to keep on top of next years' weeds by getting rid of them, especially when they are loaded with seeds.
I have a lot of people ask us how we weed organically. The answer is "By the truck-load"! All weeds are pulled by hand and taken to the dump on "Green Day." Green Day is free yard debris day at our dump. In the summer months they see us every Wednesday! Keeping your garden free of weeds is a good way to keep your garlic free of bugs and disease.
Flame weeding is another technique for organic weed control. Using a propane torch, flame weeding kills weeds by searing the leaves, causing the weeds to wilt and die. Be sure to have a hose handy and keep your fire under control.
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