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

Impaired driver crashes into Victoria police vehicle, injures officer

Cook Street collision occured in the early morning hours of Tuesday

Get ready for the 39th annual Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon

Up to 9,000 particpants are anticipated for this year’s three-day race weekend

Victoria police say explicit calls continue to target women

Over 50 reports of unwanted, sexually explicit calls have come in

Plaque that replaced Macdonald statue at Victoria city hall vandalized

Less than 24 hours after plaque was installed, an ‘X’ had been scratched through the centre

Weekend collisions keep West Shore RCMP busy

Officers responded to three separate incidents within the span of one hour

Average Canadian family spends 43% of income on taxes: study

Fraser Institute’s consumer report shows taxes accounting for larger chunk of income each year

Police chiefs call for stricter controls on pill presses to fight opioids

Canada’s police chiefs are urging Ottawa to beef up its fight against the opioid scourge by closely vetting people who import pill presses

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Aug. 14

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

‘It’s like a party in your mouth’

B.C. creator’s Milkshake Burger makes its debut at the PNE

Vehicle catches fire near Vancouver Island provincial park

Fire shut down Highway 4 in both directions

Get involved in the Great Canadian Bumble Bee Count

Environmental organization develops app to help with the nationwide count

Pesticides linked to bee deaths will be phased out in Canada, sources say

Neonicotinoids, or neonics, are a class of pesticides used by farmers and hobby gardeners alike

Most Read