BOISE — Most of us are busy putting our gardens to bed for the winter, but there’s something you can plant now that will grow through the winter and be ready for a delicious harvest come next spring.
Today on "You Can Grow It," garden master Jim Duthie gives us a little taste of garlic, and how you can grow it.
This time of year we talk a lot about winter coming and the end of our growing season, but there are some things that you can plant that you can keep growing all winter long and be ready to harvest in the spring. One of them is garlic. Lindsay Schramm from North End Organic Nursery is with me. We’re ready to talk a little garlic because it’s something that I’ve had a few questions from people about lately.
“Sure. It’s definitely something that is easy to grow, but you need to know how.”
“Alright, so when we talk about garlic, there are two different kinds. You talk about a soft neck and a hard neck garlic. And there are certain kinds you want to plant and some that you don’t.”
“Absolutely. So the two major categories of garlic – you have your hard neck that literally have a stiff neck, and they have a circle of cloves that are fairly large that grow around that center stem.”
“Whereas the soft neck garlic, when you feel it, it has a soft neck, and this is what we call braiding garlic...”
Soft neck garlic is what you’ll usually find in the grocery store because it has a longer shelf life.
But hard neck garlic is what most chefs and professional cooks prefer.
“It has a more garlicky, kind of complex flavor to it, but because of its shelf life, it’s usually available only part of the year.”
And did you know that planting grocery store garlic in your garden is actually illegal?
It’s because of white rot, a fungal disease that can affect garlic crops. Once in the soil, white rot is almost impossible to eradicate. And because of the devastating impact it could have if it spreads to Idaho’s onion industry.
Only certified disease-free seed garlic may be sold and planted in southwest Idaho. But once you get some certified garlic, now is a good time to plant it.
“It’s an ideal crop for right now. I love it because it utilizes the garden when you don’t have anything else really growing.”
“It’s a set it and forget it kind of crop.”
Garlic is a bulb, and like tulips and daffodils, it loves rich organic soil, so boost the nutrients by adding fertilizers like bone and kelp meal to stimulate growth and enhance the garlic flavor.
“So one of the important things is make sure you don’t break up your bulbs until right before planting.”
“So we want to look for a big bulb to start out with, and then the biggest cloves of that biggest bulb are going to then yield the largest garlic down the road.”
“So you’re not planting the whole bulb, you’re just planting the cloves.”
“And so this is the root side down, and you want to make sure that side does go down when planting.”
“So spacing-wise, you want to give it about four to six inches between bulbs, between cloves, as you’re planting. And about two inches of soil above each clove.”
“So for right now, I’m just using my fingers to kind of dibble down and you can use like the end of a shovel or an actual dibble, and then once you have about two to three inches, you have room for the bulb. Go ahead and plop it in there. Kind of push it down so it’s got some good soil contact, and then just cover it back up, give it a little pat, and wait for spring.”
Around mid-May, hard neck garlic will produce a scape above the woody stem. It looks a bit like a pigtail at the end with the flower head.
“You snap if off, kind of halfway down the stalk, and eat it. It’s delicious.”
Dry your harvested garlic by hanging it in a shady place with good air circulation, and let it dry for a week or two before you bring it inside.
“And the soft neck garlic, you can then braid them at that time. With the hard neck, you can cut off the stems and start eating them.”
Be sure to save the biggest garlic bulbs for planting the following fall, and then eat the rest.
“So we plant at Halloween, to keep the vampires away, right? And then you wait until the 4th of July, give or take….”
And then you can enjoy a delicious harvest and some flavorful eating.
If you’re interested in planting garlic, you need to act quickly, since supplies of certified seed garlic are running low around the valley. North End Organic Nursery still has a small supply, but it won’t last much longer. Many online and catalog seed companies carry seed garlic, but most are not allowed to ship garlic to Idaho.