time to grow garlic! here’s how

October 12, 2017 Facebook Twitter LinkedIn Google+ in your neighbourhood,living la vida local!

garlic just harvested

by Dan Ficken

Everyone has their hobbies and lifestyles. Me? Well I’m a newish dad and I think I’m a fairly ordinary guy like the rest of us; I play guitar, I enjoy the great outdoors, and I have a vegetable garden. One of my all-time favorite veggies to grow is garlic. What? I know it’s not carrots, potato, cabbage and turnip. Garlic can grow here too! And it’s well worth it.

While we often tend to think of the Newfoundland climate suited only for the classic root vegetables found in Sunday jigs dinner, there are many other cooler climate crops that thrive here that gardeners are increasingly learning to grow. While there are many more than you might think, peas, kale, broccoli, lettuce, chard, thyme, sage, oregano, and garlic are a few that pop to mind that quite happily grow in our unpredictable climate. Garlic is one of the easiest and most rewarding. You might be interested to know that garlic is an all weather crop and actually prefers a cold winter period underground followed by a warmer spring and summer period above ground.

Garlic is as easy as one, two, three (4, 5, 6…). One of the simplest and most common methods is by planting cloves. I’ll lead you through it because I know you are all thinking about planting garlic now!about a dozen garlic

  1. Find your stock. Go to the nearest Farmers’ Market, such as the St. John’s Farmers’ Market, or to a local nursery ( The Seed Company is on the Guide to the Good!) and pick out some nice big bulbs that look good to you. Cloves tend to take on the size of their parent bulbs, so be choosey.
  2. Break apart and pick the best looking cloves, and yes you may be tempted to save them for eating (which is ok too!). When you have the ones you want and a sufficient number picked out, choose a nice sunny spot in your garden and plant the cloves during the fall (yes the fall!) before the ground truly freezes later in December. September to October is a good time to plant, and even November or early December if it isn’t too cold.
  3. Plant them pointy side up and leave the papery skin on. Poke holes in the soil and pop each clove in down at least the height of the garlic or perhaps twice the height (several inches). Don’t plant too deep or it may not come up early enough in late spring. The garlic will awaken in the soil and begin to produce a root system, and then it will be somewhat dormant during the winter only to spring into action when the soil becomes softer and the sun starts shining again. Expect your garlic to start poking up in June or even May if your patch is sheltered or you have row cover over top.
  4. Enjoy watching it grow and keep your plants watered and occasionally fed. Garlic likes to be the only plant, so keep it weeded too. It will look like a blade of grass when it first appears so be sure not to weed the sprouts by mistake! As it grows, you will notice long flat leaves will appear from a central stock that will become tall throughout the summer.
  5. Summer is Scape time! If you are growing hard neck garlic, it will produce a long curly green flower stalk distinct from the leaves during summer. Harvest your scapes for a delicious early garlic present from your plants. It can be used the same as a garlic clove, or can be turned into pesto, etc.
  6. Harvest! When some of the leaves begin to turn brown later in the summer you can carefully pull or dig up your newly formed bulbs.
  7. Cure! Hang up or lay out your garlic to dry. This helps the papery skin dry out and become protective enabling a good storage for the winter because you won’t ever want to eat supermarket garlic ever again after tasting your own! During the curing phase, nutrients from any green leaves remaining will be drawn down into the bulb making it a powerhouse of a food.
  8. Eat! Enjoy! Admire! Show off to your friends! (Ahem) Give great gifts of delicious garlic to your friends!
  9. Save your best cloves and plant again in the fall for next year’s amazing crop.

And voila, it took one year but you are now a proud grower of garlic. Enjoy the fruits of your labour!


Dan Ficken and his garden bed

Dan Ficken lives in St. John’s but is originally from CBS where gardening was a part of growing up. He says, “I am urban and rural: I like the vibrancy and excitement of the cityscape and I like serenity and wildness of the forest, barrens, and ocean. I also like to merge the two and play with nature in the city, namely in the form of growing plants. I am known around town as an enthusiastic supporter and participant of farmers’ markets, community gardens, and bending the food security barriers that affect each and every one of us. I love talking gardening, and while I don’t claim to be an expert, I enjoy gaining knowledge as well as sharing my experience with everyone who grows.”