The Garlic Journal

How long does it take to grow a head of garlic? Today I found out.

Last December, Scott, one of our hunt club members, gave my wife Julia and I 30 heads of garlic. They were amazingly delicious, grown by Scott in his garden. This, I vowed, I would have to try.

Scott’s garlic, well, what’s left of the original 30 heads he gave us. Hanging beside it, one of my favorite sculptures, a mango wood carving given to my Aunt Ursula Daniel by a long-ago boy friend.

Julia and I are steady garlic users, going through at least a large head per week. The good news is garlic’s cheap down at the Food Lion grocery store in town. But Scott’s garlic was so tasty I vowed to grow some of it myself. Here, in photo-essay style, is how the experiment went.

Day 1: December 15, 2019: Plant Garlic in Creek Garden

Ripped the creek garden patch in preparation for planting. Broke up 5 heads garlic in to 30 cloves.

The garden soil ready for planting. Across the creek, our small apple orchard.
Breaking each head in to individual cloves. These heads, in addition to being tasty, were HUGE. Each head contained 5 to 6 cloves.
Laying out the cloves. Behind me the wood shed I built and sided with old lumber.
Cloves were spaced 12 inches apart. Rows were spaced 2 feet apart. That’s considered wide. I could have planted twice as close.
Each clove is buried about 2 inches in the ground.
Ready for dirt.
I’m a lazy gardener. Here, I’ve piled a thick (4 to 6 inches) layer of old hay on the just-planted garlic. The garlic will find its way though. The weeds will have a tougher time. In the background, Julia’s studio.

Day 109: April 1, 2020: Garlic ready to harvest!

April Fools! The garlic’s not even close to being ready yet. It would be a good time for a haircut, though…

Day 156: May 18, 2020: Garlic ready to bloom

Rows of garlic half-way grown. Soon they’ll send up a bloom, the so called scape.
Hay pays. When the weeds make their way through the hay, I just pluck them out and pile on more hay.

Day 173: June 5, 2020: Timber rattlesnake

Found a big timber rattlesnake up on the mountain. This has nothing to do with garlic. The snake’s belly was yellow, probably making her a female. I let her go her snake-y way. I do not believe in killing any kind of snake – poisonous or benign.

Day 178: June 10, 2020: Garlic Scapes

Garlic scapes (center of the table). These are the twisty flowering bodies the garlic sends up in summer. I snap them off so the garlic plant spends its energy making fat cloves, not a big bloom. Scapes are delicious grilled or in stir fries. The broccoli, peas, cilantro and day lilies all came off our land. Yes, even the day lily buds (aka ditch lilies) are edible – just like baby zucchini when rolled in egg, salt and corn flour and sauteed in butter.
Cooking scapes, broccoli and peas on our stove. We cook all our meals on this $45 camp stove. It’s good enough for us if it turns out meals like….
… this lunch. Grilled garlic scapes on skirt steak with garden grown peas and broccoli.

Day 193: June 25, 2020: Garlic starting to dry out

The tips of the garlic are drying off. Should be ready to harvest in a few more weeks.

Day 219: July 23, 2020: Harvest garlic!

The dried out garlic stalks. Okay, maybe I should have weeded a bit more…..
Garlic head Number One.
Perfect. I was amazed how large the heads turned out. This is “stiff neck” garlic because it has a central stalk. Ideally, I would have harvested the garlic a week earlier, before the head broke up.
Garlic and scape.
Home and laundry. The round bulb on top of the garlic heads is a leek. It comes from a volunteer patch I dug in a friend’s cow pasture. I’ll plant it this fall to see if I can get it to divide.
The harvest. Here, hanging up to dry. Once the skins on the heads toughen up, they’ll come inside. The best ones will be replanted this fall. The rest are headed for the skillet. The antlers were found in one of our wildlife feed plots.

So now you know. Two hundred nineteen days. That’s how long it takes to grow garlic. Only 105 days to go until it’s garlic planting time again. This year I plan to plant November first.

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