When growing garlic the devil is in the details

Now is the time to plant garlic in Victoria and I guarantee it will be one of the most rewarding plants you’ve grown

Now is the time to plant garlic. Varieties pictured here: red Russian

The myth may be Romanian in origin, but in the context of our globalized food system, there’s still some truth in it. The garlic you may be eating is likely to have been grown in China, fumigated with methyl bromide (a biotoxin), bleached white, and treated with growth inhibitors. The devil really can be in the details.

Now is the time to plant garlic in Victoria and I guarantee it will be one of the most rewarding plants you’ve grown. Break a bulb apart, plant one clove, wait nine months, and each clove multiplies itself into a bulb. I have managed to grow enough garlic to be self-sustaining in a raised 5×14-foot bed, planting the cloves closely, about eight inches apart. (At approximately seven cloves per bulb, I might plant only 20 bulbs worth of cloves, to yield 140 bulbs the next summer).

I don’t solely plant my own ‘seed’ cloves from year to year, but also refresh my stock by ordering from Saltspring Seed Garlic, the best local provider I’ve found: send a cheque and healthy bulbs arrive by post within a week.

I grow both softneck (the kind you can braid) and hardneck, which produce oily large fist-sized bulbs. The growing requirements are the same for both types: decent drainage, soil augmented with compost, a touch of lime, a sprinkle of organic fertilizer, and at the very least a half-day of sun. That’s it: You plant in the fall and harvest the next July, truly not giving the plants much thought.

In our region, the red Russian varieties do very well: the cloves are fat, easy to peel, and store well until spring (when they have tendency to sprout but are still entirely edible). Speaking of sprouting, one of the bonuses of growing your own garlic is that in June, when your stash has almost run out, the plants send up a flowering shoot, known as a scape. These can be used like cloves and harvesting them ensures a larger bulb. Think of the scape from the plant’s perspective: it wants to reproduce, so it sends its energy into making seeds, in the form of a wonderfully sexy flower. By snipping off that single bloom, you direct the plant’s energy back into the bulb.

If you don’t have time to order your bulbs, plan a trip to a farmers’ market to buy an unsprayed variety from a local producer. You may pay $5 a bulb, but you will be guaranteed a locally-adapted variety that will yield $30 of garlic next summer, curse free.

 

Christin Geall teaches creative nonfiction at the University of Victoria and is an avid gardener.

 

 

Just Posted

‘Norovirus-like’ outbreak interrupts Bantam hockey showcase in Greater Victoria

Several athletes were sent home, quarantined on the ferry

Expect rolling street closures, bus delays as truck convoy moves through region Saturday

The annual Truck Light Convoy will roll through the region starting at 5:45 p.m.

UPDATED: 64-year-old Victoria man David Atkins found

Atkins was found by Sooke RCMP on Saturday morning

VIDEO: Boys help rescue Cariboo bear cub

The cub, weighing just 24lbs, has been taken to wildlife sanctuary in Northwest B.C. for the winter

Greater Victoria 2019 holiday craft fair roundup

Get a jump on your holiday shopping

B.C.-born hockey official talks to IIHF about switching European rule book to NHL rules

Rob Shick will represent NHL at 4th World Hockey Forum in Russia

Miller nets winner as Canucks edge Sabres 6-5 in OT

Roussel, Leivo tally two apiece for Vancouver

$578: that’s how much your first distracted driving ticket will cost with recent premium hikes

Over 50 per cent of Canadians admitted to using phone while driving last year, according to study

Kelowna man attempts to steal bait bike from RCMP parking lot

38-year-old Brian Richard Harbison is facing several charges

‘Things haven’t changed enough:’ Ecole Polytechnique anniversary prompts reflection

Fourteen women were fatally shot by a gunman at the Montreal school on Dec. 6, 1989

Bear raids freezer, gorges on Island family’s Christmas baking

Hungry bruin virtually ignored meat and fish, focused, instead, on the sweets

Most Read