Gardening in Almonte and Carleton Place: Mostly about the garlic!

David

Garlic harvest always seems to sneak up on me – I try to pull it when about half of the leaves have turned brown.  It seems especially early to me this year – perhaps ripening happened more quickly due to the six weeks of drought that ended rather dramatically last week – Mother Nature never seems to do things by half measure! Garlic in a couple of beds at the Carleton Place Community Garden was pulled a couple of weeks ago and is happily drying in the garden shed. A few beds of garlic were harvested last week in a community garden in Almonte and are drying in a large garage. If you haven’t harvested your garlic yet, do it soon! The bulbs should not be left in the ground much longer as they can split their skins and then will not store well.

Some of the garlic I have harvested has sized up really nicely, however, there are a lot of small bulbs this year where we were unable to water. The variety that I grow is called Music. It is a high-producing hard-neck variety with large easy-to-peel cloves and excellent flavour. It overwinters very well when planted in mid-October.

Garlic is one of the first plants to emerge in the spring and has its greatest growth in the spring as it benefits from lots of moisture from snow melt. Garlic is great for short term when freshly pulled but it will not store well unless properly cured. Curing is simply a term used for the process used to preserve a product. In the case of garlic as well as onions it simply means to allow them to air dry in a warm place for two or three weeks. This allows the skin to dry and harden thus protecting the inner flesh from outer contaminants. Thus garlic needs to be ‘cured’ if you want to store it for an extended period. Shake off the loose earth (do not wash them as introducing moisture at harvest can invite rots and moulds) and dry in a sheltered but well-ventilated place – for example, tie bunches together and hang in a garage or garden shed for two or three weeks, then trim off the roots and snip off tops to an inch or so unless you want to braid it or put a bunch together and tie them with a ribbon.

Count them! Two garlic festivals!

Garlic is front and centre in the annual battle between the Carp Garlic Festival and the Perth Garlic Festival. As usual, they both occur on the same date. This year the date is the weekend of August 11 and 12.

I highly recommend both of the Perth and Carp Festivals – it is a source of some frustration to me that it difficult to fit them both in on a busy summer weekend – apparently neither festival is willing to go second. I have been at both and they are consistently a huge success with large crowds and even traffic congestion. They are great places to but local garlic but there are also a lot of other things going on – garlic flavoured ice cream, cooking contests and all nature of preserves and healthy concoctions made with garlic.

However, garlic will be the main event with 60 or more varieties for sale. If you plan to plant garlic this fall buy from a local producer – you know that what you are buying was produced locally and is suited for local conditions. Garlic that is sold in supermarkets may have been shipped in from California or China. Much of the garlic varieties being sold in retail establishments, particularly those that are braided, are soft-necked varieties that may not be hardy in the Canadian climate – the hardy stiff-necked varieties are not easy to braid and are more likely to be sold tied in a bunch by a ribbon. The soft-necked varieties do not withstand our winter very well!

If you bought garlic with the intention of planting it this fall it needs to be kept in a shaded cool place with good air circulation until it is time to plant it. I leave mine hanging in my garden shed. Do not store it in the refrigerator as this is too humid and may lead to rot. Some gardeners plant garlic in September – I aim for mid-October,