I have a great book called “The Pleasure of Herbs” by Phyllis Shaudys. It is “a month by month guide to growing, using, and enjoying herbs”. Under October, it lists “planting garlic” as one of the “to do” things on a gardener’s list.
Garlic has long been a favorite plant for flavoring and medicinal uses. Our friends the Egyptians, who must have been great gardeners, were very fond of garlic; they held it in such high esteem that it had great purchasing power. In fact, an Egyptian could buy a young slave for fifteen pounds of garlic!
The book states that garlic should be planted now, in October, for harvesting late next summer. It says that we will get best results if we plant a month before our first hard frost (obviously, Ms. Shaudys must live somewhere slightly milder than our climate!). The idea is to plant it early enough that the roots have time to develop and get established before winter really sets in.
The rule when planting onions is to choose the biggest bulb: I guess we’re giving it a head start. From what I have read and heard, the same holds true for garlic. Choose nice big heads, then break them up into individual “cloves” (the name for one segment of the garlic head). Make sure there is no sign of mildew or disease on the clove.
Plant the cloves with the pointy end up, about four inches apart, in a good deep row. Choose an area that gets full sun, and has good drainage. That’s not so important now, but it will be in the spring! Garlic enjoys a serving of compost or balanced fertilizer.
For those of you who want to plant elephant garlic, follow the same procedure, except plant the cloves about eight inches apart. Elephant garlic is milder than regular garlic, and has larger cloves so it is easier to peel.
I read that China grows three-quarters of the world’s garlic, a mind-boggling 23 billion pounds! I’m not sure how or why Gilroy, California calls itself the “garlic capital of the world” with statistics like that, but the title holds!
Garlic has not only great culinary pride of place, but also many health benefits. It is indeed a worthy addition to our gardens. I remember seeing garlic growing in the spring in a friend’s garden: the leaves looked so tender and beautiful, like some delicate grass; so on top of everything else, they make a visually pleasing addition to our gardens. And guess what, I read that garlic can even be grown in a pot, as long as it is deep enough! So for all you deck-balcony gardeners, garlic is not out of your reach!
The Yorkton and District Horticultural Society will be holding their Annual General Meeting and Banquet on Wednesday, November 28 at St. Gerard’s Hall. This is a members only meeting, a great evening that includes a delicious supper, a silent auction, and a presentation by our intrepid travelling gardener, Ed Sek. For more information on this meeting, please call Liz at 782-2830.
Even though the gardening season may be over, it doesn’t mean we can’t continue learning! As soon as the weather became wintry, my Mom, my Sweet Pea, turned to her pile of gardening magazines and articles that she had been accumulating all summer, but never had a chance to read. I can still picture her with a hot cup of tea and a stack of magazines on the kitchen table, as excited as if they were a treasure! And they were, for her: a treasure trove of information and ideas that she couldn’t wait to try next spring!
Maybe that’s why they say gardening is so good for you: gardeners are always looking forward to the next year; we work outside in the fresh air; and we all know what a good physical workout gardening can be! So get out your gardening magazines, or go to the library and take out a few gardening books, curl up with a warm cup of tea and think ahead to next spring!
Have a good week!