Garlic is a backwards plant. During the high-activity spring season, this tasty member of the onion family can be ignored. Feeding with balanced fertilizer is recommended, when the plants first sprout and a few weeks later, but that takes little time. You can remove the mulch that you put on last fall to protect the planted cloves from freeze-thaw cycles, but if you don’t, the garlic will grow through it and the mulch keeps weeds down.

About now, though, scapes – a round shoot that sprouts from the center of the garlic leaves – should be removed from hardneck garlic, the kind most often grown in Maine. If left on the plant, the scapes will curl and form seeds. These seeds will not produce good garlic. If left uncut, the scapes will take energy from the plant, and the bulbs that are the main harvest will be smaller.

As a bonus, garlic scapes are tasty, milder than the garlic bulbs. I usually eat a couple of scapes in the garden while cutting, and the rest can be used in salads, in cooking and – some say, but I haven’t tried it – in pesto.

About a month after the scapes are harvested, it will be time to dig up the heads of garlic. You’ll know harvest time has arrived when the three lower outside leaves have turned brown. Dig carefully, cut the tops, and let the heads of garlic cure in a cool, dry area for about a month. Then bring them inside for cellar (60 degree) storage.

Keep your eye out on this spot come fall for planting instructions.

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