This year we had a very successful garlic crop – in our front yard. Last summer, I visited my friend East Texas Red near Perth Ontario, where we went to the Perth Garlic Festival. There I bought a few different varieties for planting. I talked to various growers about the different varieties and listened to all sorts of recommendations. In the end I simply chose a few different ones to plant.
A more organized gardener than I would have carefully labeled each variety so I could track which produced the best garlic or the most robust bulbs. I didn’t do that. As it turned out, the garlic I bought in Perth produced a great yield of quality bulbs. We’ve been using it in the kitchen since I harvested in summer, and we have enough to last us well into the winter. I can’t say that any of the garlic I planted is superior to other bulbs. It’s all really excellent. I can say that there is a range of bulb sizes, but that may have had more to do with the spots they were planted than the variety. I don’t know.
Normally in our environment, garlic should be planted in the fall the for following year’s harvest. In past years I’ve planted in mid to late October. This year I waited just a little longer. Today I chose examples of the biggest bulbs to plant for next season, and this afternoon I planted them in a few different spots out front.
Garlic has always been one of my favorite things to grow. You take a big garlic bulb and break off a half dozen big cloves and plant them. Next summer you harvest 6 big bulbs, so you have multiplied your starting bulb by 6. If you start with a high quality bulb of a high quality strain you also end up with those 6 bulbs being significantly better that the Chinese garlic offered by grocery stores. That seems like a mighty good deal to me.
Over the years I have always taken one further step when growing garlic. I have always planted shallots at the same time. I happen to like shallots a lot especially sliced and fried up with mushrooms or thinly sliced in a salad. You get a sort of mild flavor that is somewhere between onion and garlic. Nice. You plant shallots at the same time as garlic and they are ready for harvest at about the same time in the summer. With garlic you should harvest when the plant has 3 leaves that have gone yellow. With shallots you wait until the whole plant has shriveled up and looks dead. That gets you maximum yield. Plant a single shallot and you should harvest 8 new shallots from the single plant the following summer. That is a pretty nice reliable return. You dont have to buy garden centre starter bulbs either, You can start by planting bulbs from the grocery store as long as they look sort of fresh and alive. With garlic you save the biggest bulbs from your harvest to replant for the next crop. With shallots you can save the smallest bulbs from your harvest for replanting without really affecting your yield. With both of these crops I like that you only ever have to buy starting bulbs once and after that you can replant some of your harvest. That appeals to the cheap part of me, but in both cases you should end up with a harvest that is better than anything you can buy. I always plant shallots about 9 inches from its neighbor plant.
I used to grow shallots back at the old place on Blackthorn. I always enjoyed them. Thanks for your comment, a good reminder I should plant them again!