July 29, 2013

Patience, hope and garlic


“…we don’t plant too much of any crop, though we are growing dangerously close to having too much garlic. But then how can you ever have too much garlic?

— Brian Brett, Trauma Farm

I procrastinated a little bit and planted my garlic in November last year. In my kitchen, garlic doesn’t survive very long before being eaten, so it was almost reluctantly that I saved a mere four cloves for planting. They were paired up in pots far too small, I knew, in shallow soil less than ideal but I crossed my fingers and hoped for the best. To my delight, they all came up, and come summer I enjoyed five plump garlic scapes.

Garlic needs deep, rich soil and four to six inches between cloves. For a balcony, this can be a considerable investment in space for something that may not turn out. One waits about nine months — time that passes quickly in hindsight — to both find out if one succeeded and to enjoy the fruits of one’s labour (or neglect). When you’ve done it yourself, you can appreciate why organic garlic at the farmers market sells for $12 a pound.

digging up garlic Garlic harvested

Thrips attacked the leaves in June and I worried how the bulbs would turn out with a couple months left in the dirt. Yesterday, I harvested one and let the rest sit a little longer while the soil dries out. It’s firm and a good size, but patience for another week or so is needed before I can put it to its ultimate test.

Before I harvested, my partner, a garlic lover and gardener himself, asked if I would grow them again next year. I told him it would depend how they turn out. I can grow a lot of tomatoes or kale in the same real estate, but successfully growing garlic — and I can’t proclaim yet that I have — somehow feels more satisfying. The deciding factor will probably be the reason I grew garlic in the first place: eating it.