Every fall I watch in amazement as many of the gardeners around me tuck their beds in for the cold months. I can’t figure out if they don’t know they could have a cool-weather garden or if they’re just tired of tending one. Either way they’re missing out big time. Fall-winter gardens are seriously under-utilized.
In contrast, I’m over here jumping for joy as the summer garden shrivels and fades, making way for my peas, broccoli, cauliflower, Swiss chard, lettuces, kale, onions, and garlic. Oh…the garlic. If my raving has you curious, yet you’ve never planted a fall garden before, I urge you to start with growing garlic.
Allow me to take a moment here and count the many reasons that garlic deserves a little real estate in your fall garden bed.
1. There are an amazing array of flavors; both subtle and not so subtle
2. Your garden bed is put to good use all winter long
3. Garlic is not an attention hog — minimal care here, folks
4. Growing garlic is as easy as falling off a log (seriously)
5. Garlic has very few natural garden enemies
6. It’s one crop that actually rewards your devil-may-care attitude by being simple to store for long-term use
Hardneck and Softneck Garlic
Garlics fall into two general camps: hardneck and softneck types. There are more specific classes within these two camps, but that’s another article.
Softneck garlic may be the one that you’re the most familiar with, as they’re the ones most often seen in the produce aisle. There’s good reason for this; softnecks are extremely productive, adaptable, and ship well. If you grew up Italian, then you may have seen them hanging in braids on your grandmother’s kitchen wall. They’re flexible like that. These are the domesticated versions of the hardnecks as they don’t produce topsets or scapes like their wild and crazy cousins, the hardnecks.
Hardnecks are sometimes referred to as rocambole (although rocambole is tecnically a subset in the hardneck group). Im smitten with the word “rocambole” and think it’s fitting for the hardnecks. I think they’ve earned it with those fancy, 360-degree-twisted (and delicious by the way) flower stalk scapes they send up. After harvesting, this is the group that should be eaten first as the hardnecks don’t keep as long as the softneck types. hardneck varieties may not be flexible enough for braiding but you’ll forgive them immediately once you’ve used them in the kitchen.
What About Elephant Garlic?
I hate to talk about crops behind their backs, but the hard truth is that Elephant garlic isn’t a true garlic at all. It’s actually a type of leek (which happens to form bulbs). I’m not saying that there isn’t room for it in your life. I’m not saying that it isn’t useful with its nice, mild-mannered flavor. I am saying that it’s a garlic imposter.
Let Me Send You Some Garlic
You didn’t think I was going to talk up the-greatness-that-is-garlic without offering YOU some, right? This year, you’re planting garlic. How does some ‘Purple Glazer’ (a spicy hardneck) strike you? You can find all of the garlic giveaway talk here at Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply. In this handy video, they even offer proof of just how easy it is to plant your own garlic bed this fall.Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply (one of my favorite garden supply companies on the face of this Earth) is having an Online Garlic Planting Party! They’ve asked me and seven other crazy-for-the-garlic bloggers to draw a name and they’ll send the winner:
1 pound of ‘Purple Glazer’ organic seed garlic (hardneck)
1 quart of our Liquid Kelp (for soaking the cloves overnight before planting)
10 gallon Smart Pot (in case you’d like to plant some in a container)
1 Garlic Twist (clever kitchen gadget that minces the cloves when you twist it; easy to use and clean)
1 5×7 photo print of the ‘Purple Glazer’ garlic
…aaaand just like that; you’re a garlic grower.
Leave a comment here letting me know which garlic types you’ve grown or why you’d like to try your hand at growing garlic for the first time. Feel free to comment until midnight (PT) on Wednesday, October 17, 2012. Winners will be announced on that day!
Want to stack the odds of snagging a prize? Toss your hat into seven other drawings! Pop on over to:
Peaceful Valley’s Organic Gardening Blog for ‘Bogatyr’
Chiot’s Run for a garlic combo pack
North Coast Gardening for some ‘Russian Red’
Western Gardeners for ‘Purple Italian’
Living Homegrown for ‘German Red’
Gardenerd for ‘California Early White’
Even the the Dirt Du Jour divas are giving away French red shallots over at their place!
Garlic scapes photo by grongar