Gardeners Exchange Group: Meeting 19 June 2021
Location: Home of Jane Blash
Topic: Hardneck Garlic
After a full season of isolation, about thirteen GEG members and guests gathered at the home of Jane Blash for a plant exchange and an in-depth presentation on Growing Hardneck Garlic by Terry Thorson. Terry showed photos of the growing process, passed around samples of this type of garlic (thanks, Virginia and Sally!), and answered numerous questions. Attendees shared a quantity of information that they themselves have learned with growing garlic through the years.
Loads of plants were available for exchange including tomato plants, arugula, portulaca, petunias, hosta, comfrey, daylilies, hyacinth bean vine and others.
Here are a few points from Terry’s presentation:
- Hardneck garlic has a woody stalk with cloves growing in a single layer around the base of the stalk.
- Three main varieties include porcelains (strong tasting but stores well), rocamboles (hot flavored but with shorter storage time), and purple stripes (milder, sweeter, stores well).
- Order garlic bulbs in the early summer for November planting. Virginia and Sally suggested keeping the larger bulbs from your harvest for planting in the fall.
- Figure out how many plants you can grow before ordering, as one garlic clove = one future plant/bulb, and growers sell by unit or weight and/or size – it can be confusing.
- The size of the bulb usually predicts the size of the garlic head.
- Terry’s reliable varieties are Chesnok Red and German Extra-Hardy. She likes Music, an especially large-cloved bulb.
- Garlic needs good drainage, compost or low-nitrogen fertilizer; benefits from a pre-planting overnight soak with a mix of 1gal water + 1T baking soda + 4T Kelp Meal or a liquid seaweed, then optionally a second 10-minute soak with an antiseptic (isopropyl alcohol 50-70% or hydrogen peroxide) to destroy any mites, etc.
- Plant 3 inches deep and at least 6 inches apart, then mulch.
- The center stalk produces a curl, called a scape, which should be snapped off to prevent flowering and allow for better bulb production. The scape is edible.
- Harvest around July 4th or when five full green leaves remain. Shake off clumps of soil, but don’t wash the bulbs. Instead, peel down the lowest green leaf to leave a clean bulb which reduces microorganisms.
- Lay the plants to dry out of in the sun for 3 weeks (on a porch with a fan to help dry the bulbs), then cut back the roots and most of the stem. Brush off any remaining soil.
- Terry has had the most success storing 4 to 6 bulbs in small paper bags in the basement. A suggested storage method is to peel the cloves, toss lightly in olive oil, then store in glass jars in the freezer. Do not thaw before using, just roast or slowly sauté.
- You should never store garlic for a long time submerged in oil, cooked or not, in the fridge or freezer. You run the risk of harmful bacteria forming, such as botulism. Be sure your garlic cloves are clean, and if you roast garlic in oil, place it the freezer immediately after cooking and use within a short period of time. (Very good with cooked greens!)
- A very good resource: Growing and storing a year of garlic, from A Way to Garden with Margaret Roach.
The group perused the flower garden, lamented some cicada damage on the black gum and smoke trees, and enjoyed gardening conversation and tips. GEG will notify members by email of any upcoming gathering.
Submitted by Jane Blash
Photos by Jane Blash