Garlic loves the cold…

IMAG0372And we love garlic. (A lot. Especially the juicy and flavorful bulbs you get if you grow it yourself. Home-grown garlic is infinitely more delicious than the dessicated and dull cloves you so often buy in the supermarket.)

The secret to a good garlic harvest is to make sure it is exposed to chilly weather. Unlike tender summer crops, garlic requires a period of cold to prompt the individual cloves you plant to grow into chunky heads of multiple segments.

Last October I pushed cloves into newly raked soil in a raised bed. Most of these have grown slowly, steadily through the winter and now are pleasingly established plants, awaiting the warmer months to bulk up for harvest in July.

Garlic sown last October

Autumn-sown garlic enjoys the winter sun.

A few cloves didn’t germinate, however, for some unknown reason. They remain in the soil, looking just as they did when I planted them. Are they in suspended animation or are they dead? I didn’t wait to find out – I bought some more garlic!

“Cristo” is a French variety that can be planted in the autumn or spring. A week ago, during a fleeting bit of sun, I ripped the papery husks off the heads, broke them in pieces, and submerged the cloves in new rows near the ones I had sown months ago.

Not only am I hedging my bets, hoping for a good harvest, but I now have an experiment in progress. What will be the difference between autumn-sown and spring-sown garlic? Will one be more prolific, more fat and juicy? Will they mature at the same time? I’m looking forward to finding out. I just hope the results are more spectacular than last year, when the heads were disappointing, made up of miniscule cloves, more trouble to peel than they were worth!

One of my allotment goals for this year is to master the art of successional sowing – the discipline of sowing seeds little and often, ensuring that you have a steady supply of vegetables ready to pick rather than lurching from famine to glut and back to famine. This methods works well with many crops, especially quick growing ones such as salad greens, herbs, and radish. Let see if it works with garlic.