5 Steps for Overwintering Garlic

Garlic scapes, a rite of spring

In the side yard garden space is at a premium, so I decided to try overwinter garlic late last year. Six month later I think it’s doing okay. This is my first go round with garlic so the whole process is a bit of a mystery. We’re still feeling each other out to see if we’ll date again next fall. So far, so good.  I sunk three types of cloves into the ground around Halloween last year, covered it up with a good blanket of salt hay and then scoffed that anything would grow given the utter avalanche of snow we had in New England this year. But lo and behold, it did grown and it’s still growing (turns out cold stimulates the formation of the bulbs). Garlic is a hardy plant and given it’s preference or tolerance for cold, it’s a great way to extend the short growing season up here. Here are the five simple steps I followed (or plan to follow):

1. Get it in the ground
Plant it later, but before the ground freezes. That’s the one golden rule with garlic. This one I’m pretty sure I did right. If you’re in the Northeast, you’ll likely want to go with the hard-neck variety. The other variety (the one typically found in supermarkets is soft-necked). Garlic isn’t overly picking, like most veggies, it likes rich, well drained soil. I amended the rows with compost, added some additional soil and layered on the salt hay to control weeds and give the cloves a little insulation. Be sure to plant each clove flat side down, pointy end up. I kept the soil moist till the snow came. Then I just crossed my fingers.

After the winter...

2. Spring time maintenance
Around March, I pulled off a lot of the hay and was happy to find a number of hardy green shoots. I added a little seaweed fertilizer and largely left them alone other than some light weeding.

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3. Scapes anyone?
This is like the trailer before the movie. Scapes are the curling part of the plant right before it flowers. Cut them off before they flower to force more energy into bulb development and to add some mild, garlic flavor to any number of dishes like stir-fry’s, eggs or pesto. I’m anxiously awaiting scapes now. This is a signal that the growing season is winding down.

4. Harvest
Once the leaves start to brown, it’s best to stop watering. When the stems start to collapse (but while still a little green), your garlic is ready to harvest. You can carefully dig down and check on the bulb size if you’re not sure. Be careful not to let it go too long or bulbs will start to rot in the ground. While some people like to use fresh, green garlic, most will want to dry and store cloves. I plan to try a bit of both. Place the bulbs on screens, or loosely braided, to cure in a dry, dark, airy place until thoroughly dry with papery skins. The bulbs can then be stored under cool, dry, dark conditions. Don’t forget to plant some of these cloves for next year’s harvest.

5. Enjoy
This is the whole point right? A little homesteading. Here are a few recipes I’m looking forward to trying with my garlic (and other veggies):
Roasted grape tomato and garlic pesto
Roasted Grape Tomato and Garlic Pesto Dip Recipe

 

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