One of the most rewarding food-stuffs you can grow is garlic. Yes, the same one that makes pasta taste good and the one that keeps both friends and vampires away. Garlic is a root vegetable that is part of Alliaceae family of plants and a member of genus Allium. This is the same genus as Onions. It is also a perennial grown for its strongly scented bulbs. It has been grown since the days of the Egyptian pharoahs and for centuries in China and India.
To this day it is highly prized throughout the world for both its culinary and medicinal properties. It is well known that garlic has powerful antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Garlic has also been proven to reduce cholesterol and the chance of having a heart attack. It is a core component of the legendary Mediterranean diet and combines well with ample amounts of peppers, tomatoes, onions and olive oil. Garlic when used as a regular part of the diet has also been shown to reduce the incidence of certain types of cancers.
In fact, herbalists even believe that rubbing garlic on the soles of the feet will cure the common cold. We're not sure about this claim, but we do recommend you try this experiment when you are home alone, otherwise you will get some pretty odd looks from those around you.
Garlic is grown from segments of its bulb called cloves. These can either be purchased or saved from a previous crop. Cloves can be planted in late fall or early spring. For best growth, garlic requires a cool, dormant period 4-8 weeks in length. For this reason, fall planting is preferred, though it is not a necessity.
Plant garlic in an area that receives full sun. A light, but well drained soil is recommended. Excess rainfall or moisture can reduce the chances of successful harvest. An application of spring mulch and general fertilizer is beneficial. Do not plant garlic in the same area as peas and beans or where onions have been grown in previous years.
When planting, dig a hole about 1-2 inches deep and place the clove vertically with the flat part (the base plate), facing down. Ensure at least one inch of soil covers the clove when done. Planting deep can increase the yield in good soils.
It takes approximately nine months from time of planting to grow garlic. September plantings will be ready for harvesting from May and onwards the following year.
It kind of makes you wonder how garlic can be grown offshore for 9 months, shipped and then sold in a grocery store for $0.99 / 3 pack. It really does put into question the quality of the entire food supply chain. Personally, I would recommend growing your own or purchasing it from local farmers.
That aside, the amount of leaf growth gives an indication of how big a mature bulbs is. When the leaves begin to turn yellow, it is time to harvest. Dig out the bulbs carefully and allow them to dry in the sun. Garlic is extrememly hardy and can be grown in any area of B.C. zone 3 and warmer.
Art's Nursery carries several varieties of garlic including white, red and elephant garlic. These are generally available in fall between September and November, and once again in early spring. Plant them now and harvest the rewards in a few months!