Garlic is a perennial plant that’s cultivated like an annual. In our latitude it’s generally grown by planting cloves in the fall and harvesting the bulbs the following summer. It’s also possible to multiply garlic using bulbils produced in the floral capsule. Certain varieties of garlic even have the ability to produce seeds.
Some advice for growing your garlic
Reserve a corner of your kitchen garden for the production of your annual garlic ration. Each clove planted will give you a bulb. To harvest 50 bulbs, therefore, you have to plant 50 cloves.
Pick hardy locally produced varieties. Imported commercial garlic is often irradiated or treated with anti-sprouting agents. Select healthy, firm bulbs with good-quality cloves.
Plant the garlic in the autumn, about one month before the ground freezes for good, meaning between mid-September and late October, depending on your region. Garlic prefers full sun along with a light, fertile, humus-rich, well-draining soil. Optimal pH is between 6 and 7. A four-year rotation is recommended.
Divide the bulbs and plant each clove separately, point up, and cover them with two to three centimeters of earth. Leave 10 to 15 centimeters between cloves and 20 to 25 centimeters between rows. At the first frost, cover the plot with a layer of mulch (shredded leaves, straw) to promote snow accumulation, the best winter protection.
During the foliage and bulb growing season, garlic must not go without water or minerals. Hoe, weed and water in dry periods. Fertilize regularly directly to the ground or by foliar spraying with natural fertilizers (liquid manure, seaweed or fish emulsion).
Towards mid-June, cut and harvest the young floral stems (wrongly called “garlic flowers”). They’re delicious raw, sautéed or in a pesto.
Around the end of July, the bulbs are general ready for harvesting. The ideal time varies according to regions and varieties. When the upper half of the leaves is still green, that’s a good visual indicator. At that stage, the bulb is still wrapped up in several protective membranes. Later on, the leaf layer deteriorates little by little, exposing the cloves to moisture and pests.
Drying and storing the bulbs
Hang the plants in a warm (20 to 25 °C), dark, well ventilated place for about three weeks. During that period, the bulbs lose 20 to 30 percent of their weight.
Then store them in a well ventilated room in baskets, cardboard boxes or paper bags, never in plastic or in the refrigerator.
Ideal storage conditions are 15 to 20 °C with a relative humidity of 45 to 55 percent.