Growing Garlic with Edith Maxwell

Who doesn’t love garlic? Mashed up in butter and toasted on Italian bread. Gently sautéed with stir-fried broccoli or green beans. The critical ingredient in a basil pesto. The basis of any decent soup or stew. It’s good for your health, too.

Garlic is a fantastic crop to grow, and it’s easy. In New England,  you plant it in late fall, when everything else is dying off for the winter. I try to pick a nice sunny Indian-Summer kind of day to sit outside and separate bulbs of organic garlic. In a garden bed with plenty of rich compost worked in, I press the cloves down pointed side up until the point is just below the surface. Space them six inches apart from each other. After the ground freezes in December, I mulch the beds with salt marsh hay, which prevents frost heaves.

In April the green shoots push up through the hay, which you leave the hay on the bed so it can suppress weeds. After the summer solstice, stiff-neck garlic throws up curly scapes. Clip these off to increase bulb size, and cook with them for a nice mild garlic flavor. I harvest the crop in late July when two-thirds of the leaves have yellowed.

I learned much of what I know about growing garlic from a fabulous book, titled Growing Great Garlic. Garlic has no pests in our area. It doesn’t need pruning or thinning. It feels like a free crop in the spring, because the work was done so long ago. I use lots of garlic when I cook, and it stores well. What’s to lose? I hope you’ll plant some this fall, too.