Guest Post : Growing Garlic

Hi! I’m Kate Gatski. My husband, our 2 children and I live in rural Pennsylvania; adjacent to the family farm.  We cultivate a small garden patch in an upper pasture, raise a heritage breed of pigs and milk a handful of dairy cows. In 2003, we started Gatski Metal, creating metal sculptures made with recycled farm machinery.  We bring all our passions for farming, food and design together at The Steel Fork.

Garlic is simple and fun to grow. It doesn’t demand much of your time and gives you fantastic flavor [not to mention terrific health benefits]. For the design minded readers; a small patch of garlic is also quite pleasing to the eye.  If you’re not a gardener by nature but are feeling a tug towards the dirt- give garlic a try.

One of the lovely things about garlic is that it can be planted in the fall or the spring. We find the cool, calm of autumn is a wonderful time to savor one last gardening task. Here in Pennsylvania, we plant our garlic in early/ mid October [around Columbus Day].

You can also plant your garlic when the ground is ready to be worked in the spring. Spring planted garlic may result in slightly smaller bulbs. The beauty of garlic is that it is self-sustaining. You can harvest it, eat the smaller cloves and plant the larger ones in the fall.

Here is how you plant… 

  1. pick a sunny spot
  2. loosen and turn over soil with a shovel or digging fork
  3. make a small hole [6-8 inches] and place in one clove with pointy side up
  4. space your cloves about 4 inches apart
  5. cover with soil

Now you can wait for them to grow and weed as necessary. It’s a good idea to spread straw around the plants; it helps keep weeds at bay. Your garlic will grow tall and develop a flower stalk. Take a few moments and cut these stalks off with scissors. The bulbs will grow larger if the plant is not putting energy into flowers.

It is usually in early/mid July we begin thinking about harvesting. The rule of thumb is to harvest when the plants have one or two leaves beginning to turn brown [five or six green ones remaining].

photo above courtesy of Maya

Harvest your garlic by pulling up stems (dig up if they do not pull easily). Lay them out of direct sun and rain. Let them cure for several weeks and then rub off excess dirt and the outermost layer of skin around the bulb. You can trim the stalks to about 12 inches above the bulb. Store in a dark, well-ventilated spot that won’t freeze.