April 2, 2011 Leave a comment
We’re officially two weeks into spring here in the Northeast, and while temperatures have been creeping upward, it’s never easy in the early going, as was evidenced by the wholly unwelcome snowfall we saw this past Friday. Luckily, such setbacks tend to be short-lived in the April sun. Snow contributes to May’s flowers just the same. It’ll also contribute to whatever’s been overwintered – like, say, this lovely hardneck garlic!
We received a beautiful-looking head of garlic late last summer from Turtle Creek Trading Co., and in the middle of October, I planted it… at 8PM on a Friday night, in the rain. The arrangement was far from ideal, but it was the only free time I had to dig and plant before temperatures were set to drop into “it’s too cold to plant things” territory. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of digging in wet, rocky soil, you’ll understand how much fun this was. Still, I got us a plot about six feet long and two feet wide, into which went twenty-two bulbs of garlic. I think I inverted the shovel, stabbed a hole into the ground, dropped the bulb in, and then covered it with dirt. Two rows of 11 bulbs each, set to overwinter.
It was our first time planting anything in the fall. After the huge amounts of snow we received began to melt in early March, we discovered that a few little green-brown shoots (it felt like a miracle) had begun to poke their heads through the soil. We were worried that they’d started to come up too soon, which I suppose is very human thing to do: could these plants possibly survive the winter? Yes, they can. Luckily, the sunlight has been a revelation for these little guys; the first to sprout are now a good four or five inches tall, and there are probably a dozen of them that have poked through the soil thus far.
In a couple of months, we’ll hopefully have a bunch of scapes to harvest. Cutting off the scapes serves two purposes: it allows the plant to send more energy to the bulb than to the scape, and it provides you with delicious scapes to eat. Then, in July or August, if all goes well, once the leaves of the plant start to look pale and tired, we’ll have almost two dozen heads of garlic to harvest. Spring is back, everyone! Here’s to a long and successful growing season.