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  • Janice Wright

Is there a Northern Advantage to Growing Garlic in Ontario?

These days, garlic is a staple ingredient in just about every Canadian kitchen. And why not? From its pungent heated taste when raw, to the umami balance that garlic adds to any recipe when cooked is unmistakable.

Sudbury Garlic Workshop

Garlic growers and garlic lovers everywhere immediately know the difference between imported garlic and locally grown garlic; there is simply no comparison.

Recently, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), partnered with the Garlic Growers Association of Ontario, and the Northern Ontario Farm Innovation Alliance (NOFIA) to bring three garlic workshops to Northeastern Ontario.

Almost 70 garlic growers and potential growers attended workshops held in New Liskeard, Sudbury (with link to Thunder Bay) and Desbarats. Participants came to learn about best practices for garlic production and pest management. Travis Cranmer and Dennis Van Dyk, Vegetable Crops Specialists from OMAFRA provided current information on crop production, scouting techniques, entomology and plant pathology.

Attendee’s also learned that there is a northern Ontario advantage to growing garlic and this is why:

  • Unlike most crops, garlic (generally speaking) is planted in the fall and harvested the next July

  • It requires a winter dormancy period

  • Some pests found in the south, have not yet made it to the north or are of less of an issue

Garlic: The Basics

Garlic is a member of the allium family which also includes onions. There are two main types of garlic – hardneck and softneck. In Ontario, most garlic that is planted are hardneck varieties and are generally more cold-hardy. These varieties generally produce bulbs of 6-10 good-sized cloves.

Unlike softneck garlic, which has no “flower” scape, hardneck garlic produces a scape which holds the bulbils, which can be used as planting stock, but require two or more years of growth to develop into marketable bulbs.

Garlic Scape

Garlic scapes are harvested about a month prior to harvesting the actual bulbs. Harvesting the scape often allows for more of the plants nutrients to go into bulb production. Depending on the cultivar, studies have shown that there is a 30% decrease in bulb size for cases where the scape is not removed.

But it doesn’t stop there, garlic scapes are becoming known for their distinct garlicky taste that is milder than the bulbs. Generally available for three weeks each year, scapes are very versatile and can be fried, made into pesto, used in marinades, pickled, powered and barbequed with other vegetables.

Onion Maggot Fly

Once garlic bulbs are harvested, they are cured in an airy location out of direct sunlight. Cured bulbs are market-ready in about 2-3 weeks after harvest.

There are a number of pests and diseases that can impact production, and growers should educate themselves on what to look for and how to best protect their crop. If you are purchasing planting stock from another grower, ensure that it is free of nematodes by getting it tested at a pest diagnostic lab.

For more information go to and subscribe for up to date information about garlic and other vegetable-related news. If you are interested in participating in a garlic workshop, please E-mail as there may be an upcoming workshop near you.

Northern Ontario garlic workshops proudly sponsored by NOFIA.

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