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Planting for Next Year
It's September, and even though much of the garden is still producing, signs of the winding down of the growing season abound. The nights are getting cooler, the day length is shortening, and the trees and other plants are beginning to take on their autumnal color, though slowly. I have planted some kale, broccoli, and even cukes for a later harvest. But, the best thing to plant now for harvest next year is garlic.
I attended the Vermont Garlic and Herb festival this past weekend. Held in Bennington, VT, it is rated one of the top 10 Garlic Festivals, and it surely had something for everyone. I tasted garlic pickles, garlic salsa, garlic dips, garlic preserves, raw garlic, and lots more. There were places selling garlic ice cream and fudge, but I passed on those, simply because I don't eat sugar so they were not appealing for that reason. There were lots of growers with wonderful supplies of seed garlic, and I happily left with several bulbs of German White and Spanish Roja. I only have space for one 8' bed, and I planted that yesterday just before the rain.
Hardnecked garlic grows best for us here in the northeast. The bonus with growing hardenecks is you get garlic scapes in the spring, which are a delightful spring treat. Hardnecks have a stem that grows though the center of the bulb. It is the seed head, and is best removed to allow for the formation of large bulbs. So, what to do when you remove them?
One thing you can do is use them as you would a scallion - chopping it as an addition to salads, stir fries, or anywhere you would like a garlic flavor. The other is to make garlic scape paste, which is a great way to preserve it for use later in the year, or as a pesto. I explain how to make pastes in a previous post - http://greenwomansgarden.com/content/preserving-last-days-summer. Just remember that the scapes will toughen as they sit, so to make the most of your harvest, use them quickly.
When you buy seed garlic, buy the largest bulbs you can find, with the biggest cloves. Then, plant the cloves individually, about 4-5" apart, 2-3" deep. When saving your own garlic, keep the largest bulbs (or cloves) for re-planting, as continually planting large cloves will result in larger bulbs and cloves. I had begun, after several years of planting, to reap the benefits of large bulbs in my garden in Mendon. Alas, the last harvest did not coincide with my move, and I had to leave my garlic behind. So, I have started again, and was pleased to find some very handsome sized bulbs of German White from a farm in Holley, NY.
I'm keeping my fingers crossed that the plants do well, and that next year I will have a respectable harvest of both scapes and cloves. Hardnecks keep for only a few months after harvest, so making pickles, jam, and other garlic products are a fun way to keep that garlic flavor around til the next year. And, the North Quabbin Garlic and Arts festival is September 28 and 29, so you can still get your fill of garlic tastes and acquire some seed garlic, too.
Stay stinky with garlic!