It is Time to Plant Garlic Now but What About Elephant Garlic??
Did you know that Elephant Garlic is not true garlic??
Elephant garlic is named for its large size and milk flavor however it is not a true garlic. In fact, it really belongs to the leek family.
Another interesting item is that the botanical name for elephant garlic is Allium ampeloprasum. The word Allium is of Celtic origin meaning “pungent” and many years ago garlic was referred to as Russian penicillin, being used for medical remedies for all kinds of ailments. It is also delicious in many recipes for those who like a more mild flavor than true garlic.
Elephant garlic is a unique plant. Although it looks like a giant garlic bulb and has a mild garlic flavor, it has more of the texture and water content of leeks. Elephant garlic tends to alternate each year between forming one large bulb or "round" to forming many small cloves. This is because Elephant garlic is a biennial and forms the single bulb in the years that the plants don't flower. All of the plant's resources go into building up the single bulb that will help the plant survive into its second year and send up flower stalks. If you re-plant the large bulb, you should get a plant that sends up a flower stalk and develops smaller cloves. When the cloves get large enough, they will repeat this cycle.
Although the plants will grow and form bulbs in partial shade, you will get larger bulbs if you grow your elephant garlic in full sun. Elephant garlic will reach a maximum height of about three feet. It has the typical leaves of other allium plants and will spread up to 10 inches.
Elephant garlic can be started by direct sowing seed garlic that can be purchased through some garden centers, catalogs, and online websites. If you decide on this option look for certified seed Elephant garlic which has been grown specifically for planting in the garden and is free of insects and diseases You can also purchase Elephant garlic as cloves to plant in October.
Did you know that garlic bulbs purchased at the grocery store should not be planted? This is important because there is the likelihood of diseases that may be present on the bulb and spread specific garlic diseases in the soil. This could prohibit planting garlic or onions in the same bed for several years. Definitely not worth the risk.
Instead, plant certified garlic in October in eastern Washington gardens and in November in western Washington gardens. To prepare the planting area, loosen the soil to improve drainage.
Compost can also be worked into the planting area to support the growth of developing roots and to loosen the soil. Mulch, such as weed-seed-free straw or other organic materials, can be used to protect the growing plants from cold damage during the winter, conserve water, and help prevent weeds from competing with the garlic plants.
Spread 3–4 inches of mulch over the planting area. Plant large Elephant garlic cloves that are clean and dry and plant them the same day the bulb is broken apart. Plant the cloves so that the tops are 2 inches below the soil line, and place the garlic clove flat-side down and pointed-side up in the hole. Garlic should be planted 4–6 inches apart in rows that are spaced 12–24 inches apart.
Keep the planting area free of weeds because Elephant garlic competes poorly with other plants. Side-dress the plants with compost in late April or May when the tops are 6–8 inches tall. During spring and early summer, provide about 1 inch of water per week or enough water to prevent the soil from drying out. Stop watering when the tops of the plants begin to fall over and dry up, about two to four weeks before harvest in July.
Elephant garlic is more susceptible to diseases than to insect pests. A garlic clove infected with a disease or insect pest may produce small, misshapen, and inedible bulbs. To prevent pest problems in garlic, only plant seed garlic that is certified free of disease and insect pests. Each clove should be checked for damage before planting. Cloves showing any discoloration, stippling, or bruising should be discarded.
Rotation of plantings on a three-year basis will also reduce pressure from diseases and insects. Do not plant onions in the same area as Elephant garlic because it is susceptible to many of the same diseases and insects as onions. Onions should be included in the rotation of plantings every three years. It is also important to keep planting areas free of weeds and plant debris.
The delicious Elephant garlic will be ready during the middle of next summer or about eight months after planting. You will need to be patient but it is worth it. Enjoy harvesting your Elephant garlic and be sure and try it in many of your favorite recipes.
The following links provide additional WSU information on growing garlic and Elephant garlic.
Article Submitted by KH
Photo Credit: Shutterstock