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Gardening & More: Exploring the versatility of the easy-to-grow garlic

THE SPICE OF LIFE — In the spring, hard-neck garlic gets a scape, or a flower on a curlicue stem. You can eat the garlic scapes. These are as versatile as the garlic bulb.
SPRINGVILLE — Every gardener in Western New York should grow garlic.

It is a must-have ingredient for a variety of cuisines, from Italian to Thai, so you want to have an ample supply, in your kitchen.

Garlic is also used in many homemade pest sprays. While many humans love the smell and taste of garlic, a lot of garden pests do not. Whether you are cooking dinner or protecting your garden, garlic is great to have around.

Now is the time to plant garlic. I love things that give me an excuse to work in the garden, during the fall. Best of all, garlic is easy to grow.

Here are some tips from Tom Szulist who, with his wife Vivianne Singer Szulist, owns Singer Farm Naturals in Niagara County, which specializes in growing organic gourmet garlic.

Plant garlic after the last full moon in October, which, this year, will occur on Oct. 29. A good rule of thumb is to plant garlic in late October through November and sometimes as late as December, weather permitting.

What you eat is what you plant. One clove of garlic is like one seed. Plant the clove with the pointed side up and the rough end down.

Garlic doesn’t like wet feet, so it is best to plant it in a raised bed.

How deep you should plant the garlic depends on the size of the clove. If the clove is an inch tall, you want an inch of dirt above it. If the clove is 1 1/2 inches tall, you want 1 1/2 inches of dirt above it, and so forth.

If you buy garlic in the supermarket, it may have originated in another country and may have been fumigated, so it may not grow for you. If you buy organic garlic, you can be sure it has not been fumigated and will grow.

There are two categories of garlic: hard neck and soft neck. While both kinds will grow here, hard neck does especially well, but it does not do as great when storing.

Hard neck garlic has another interesting trait. It gets a “scape,” which is a flower on a curlicue stem. You can eat the scape, as well as the clove. There are recipes for using scapes raw, fried or even pickled. Garlic scapes seem to be as versatile as garlic bulbs.

BITE ME — Garlic is easy to grow. Plant it with the pointed side up and the rough side down.
If you allow the scapes to remain in place, they will produce “bulblets,” or seeds. You can plant these seeds, but Szulist said that the bulb of garlic produced will be small. It will take three years to produce a large bulb of garlic, when you start with bulblets. In addition, the garlic produced may be slightly different from the original plant. He recommended using cloves of garlic to start your plants.

Soft neck garlic does not get a scape. It tolerates a hotter climate and the winter doesn’t have to be as cold. It will last longer in storage.

Plant some garlic now so that you will have a delicious harvest next summer.

Connie Oswald Stofko is publisher of
Buffalo-NiagaraGardening.com, the online gardening magazine for Western New York. Email Connie@BuffaloNiagaraGardening.com.

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