It’s the time of year when vegetable gardens are harvested and, for many growers, that means figuring out what to do with a lot of garlic.
Garlic should be stored in a cool, dry and well-ventilated area, not a refrigerator, which can cause mold. It can be stored for roughly three to five months. This is good news for gardeners with root cellars or cool basements, but those who lack such spaces have to get a little creative.
Cindy Maynard of Green Mountain Garlic in Waterbury Center says they use a spare bedroom in which they keep the temperature around 40-50 degrees for storage. She said drying is the tricky part. Many folks use barns, sheds or other outdoor spaces to dry their garlic, but, she said, it needs a more controlled environment. She said the ideal conditions are dry with good air circulation. When it’s humid out, they keep fans on their garlic while it dries. She said this year offered a particular challenge, as it was so wet in July, when most people harvest garlic.
In terms of growing garlic, Maynard said mid-to-late October is the best time to plant, a few weeks before the ground freezes. She suggested checking the long-term weather forecast to make sure temperatures aren’t too warm, which can cause the garlic to sprout early. That happened to Green Mountain Garlic this past year, when temperatures spiked in November after they’d planted. The garlic grew about an inch and was exposed to the elements all winter, though with good mulch cover, they had one of their best crops ever.
She added that garlic grows best in soil with high pH, around 7 (neutral), rather than acidic, as much of the soil in New England tends to be. Garlic-growers with acidic soil can work lime into their soil to increase the pH. She recommended testing the pH before planting.