This year, I wanted to switch things up and grow vegetables all season long. I built a hoop house over my raised garden bed, and planted my very first winter garden. I planted crops that do well in the cold, then took precautionary measures to make sure they wouldn't freeze. Since this was my first try at growing vegetables all season, I set my expectations lower that usual and just hoped for the best. I took notes of what did well, what did great, and what did not so great.
Before I started planting, I made a list of unique crops that I wanted to try growing. Baker Creeks Heirloom Seeds is the perfect place to shop. They have a wide selection of not only seeds, but different varieties of garlic bulbs to choose from. Elephant Garlic immediately caught my eye. I wanted to challenge myself, as well as expand my gardening knowledge by growing something new. Out of everything I tried growing over the winter, Elephant Garlic turned out to be my MVV(most valuable vegetable). Seeing it through each growing stage was fascinating and such a great learning experience.
About Elephant Garlic
Elephant Garlic or Allium ampeloprasum is not technically a true garlic. It is closely related to the garden leek. It tastes similar to regular garlic, although it does have milder flavor. It can be used in cooking just like you would use other garlics. The cloves are larger, and the leaves of the plant are tall and flat more like a leek. The foliage is a bluish green color and starts to produce a flower as it matures. You can cut these scapes off when they are young and cook with them! If you leave them, they will bloom into a gorgeous light purple flower. Just like the name states, they are large plants that need a good amount of room to grow. In my experience, it is disease resistant and not prone to any trouble with garden pests. Below are pictures of the stages in-between planting and harvesting.
The beginning stages of growing when my garlic started to break through the ground in February.
Starting to see all the bulbs producing leaves in early spring.
Elephant Garlic beginning to produce delicious scapes in early June.
Flowering in early July.
Growing Elephant Garlic
Elephant Garlic needs a cool season to grow successfully. I planted mine in the early fall to give it time to set strong roots. This garlic takes around 240 days to mature, so you are definitely in it for the long haul! When choosing a location, pick a spot with full sun and well drained soil. Remember since this plant is larger and doesn't appreciate overcrowding, give it plenty of room. While you are loosening your soil, it is also a good time to amend with organic matter. Make sure to plant your cloves down 1 inch deep and 4 inches apart. Water in your new plants and also add a good layer of mulch. This layer will protect your tender plants from frost during the winter months. I also added a frost blanket and hoop house for extra protection. The winters can be harsh here in New England, so I didn't want to take any chances of damage with falling ice and heavy snow.
When you remove the mulch in the spring, make sure to weed regularly. This way, your Elephant garlic doesn't have to compete for nutrients. Make sure to water regularly during dry months with less rainfall. I use a soaker hose to give my plants a regular drink. During the spring, the leaves will grow anywhere from 24 to 36 inches high. During the beginning of June, you will start to see your garlic scapes sprout. You can harvest these and enjoy in your seasonal meals. You want to remove the scapes before they begin to flower to direct energy to the bulbs. I harvested most of mine and made dishes like this delicious Summer Garden Stir-fry. I did leave one scape intact so I could enjoy it's beautiful bloom.
Harvesting Elephant Garlic
When the foliage of your garlic plant begins to turn yellow and dry out, it is finally time to harvest! You will notice your leaves will bend and look like they are dying back. This is perfectly normal! Now, is when you begin to pull. When you pull your plants out of the soil, it should be easy with no need for harsh tugging. After removing your Elephant garlic, give it a good wash with the hose. This removes any dirt or bugs stuck to the roots and bulbs. Allow them to dry out in the sun or garage for a couple of hours. After this, move to a well-ventilated location like a basement for about 3 to 4 weeks. When you pull up your bulbs, you will notice small corms attached to your large cloves. These can be removed and replanted if desired. The first year, they will produce a non-blooming plant with a single bulb. The second year is when you can enjoy multiple cloves!
Tuesdays In The Garden
Now it's time for Tuesdays in the garden! Shell shares with us everything you need to know to grow carrots. Jami gives us a great guide for growing, harvesting, cooking and preserving green beans. Michelle lets us in on a beginners guide to growing garlic. Diane gives us 5 helpful tips for growing perfect peppers! Stop by and take a look by clicking on the links below.
Shell | Frugal Family Home
Jami | An Oregon Cottage
Michelle | Simplify, Live, Love
Diane | Homemade Food Junkie
I really enjoy branching out as a gardener and growing new things. Elephant garlic is totally worth the commitment and time it takes to grow. The scapes are yummy, and one of my favorite things to add into dishes. I am currently drying all of my garlic and am looking forward to cooking up some fun recipes! Do you grow garlic in your own garden? If you do, do you have a favorite variety and way to cook it? Tell me all about it in the comment section below! You can also tweet me tips and recipes @thefreckledrose. Happy growing and harvesting everyone!
In Case You Missed It - July Garden Tour