Growing garlic at home is not only a surprisingly fun and inexpensive way to have a nearly endless supply of garlic available to you but also a way to have more control of the quality of food that you eat. Here at City Steading we are always looking for ways to improve our way of life, be it through creating a more active lifestyle or finding means to eat healthy chemical free foods. Gardening aids in both areas.
Growing garlic is surprisingly easy once a few tips are pointed out.
A loose soil benefits bulb growth so that they have room and ease to expand. A sunny location, be it in the ground, a raised planting bed or a pot is ideal. Drainage is key as you do not want water to collect and cause rot or disease. Make sure to implement crop rotation. Do not plant garlic where garlic or onions were planted the previous season as the soil’s nutrients will be depleted from the previous crop. You can purchase garlic bulbs for planting supply stores or the local market. I have found that organic garlic makes for a better plant.
Separate the individual cloves of garlic from the main bulb and select the largest cloves for planting. This will give your garlic plants the best head start to grow strong and healthy. Push each clove one to two inches in the ground, cover with displaced dirt and water if the soil is dry. Alternatively you can place the separated cloves into a small vessel of water to promote root growth before planting. Remember that the pointed end is up and the flat indented portion is the bottom of the clove. You know it is time for harvesting when at least half the leaves have turned brown and papery. Carefully pull the dirt away with your fingertips from the garlic bulb. This will give you a sneak peek to see if they are ready to completely remove yet or not. Do not leave the bulbs in the ground too long as this may cause your garlic bulbs to separate or even rot. Once you remove the plants from the ground, let them lay in the sun for a few hours then find a good location for them to dry for two to three weeks in a shady area with good air circulation. Do not let them get wet, so if drying outside, make certain they stay out of the rain or any heavy dew. Tie the garlic in bunches of ten or you can get fancy and braid the leaves. Once dried, cut tops off one to two inches above garlic bulbs and store loose bulbs inside in a airy place like a basket. Special note: Garlic is also a great companion crop as it acts as a natural pest and fungus deterrent. (For more information on that, please keep reading)
When to grow garlic differs from region to region but typically there is a Fall and Spring planting. For Fall, plant cloves in mid-autumn and in areas where frost is an issue be sure to top with six inches of mulch for winter protection. For Spring planting, plant as soon as soil can be worked after the last frost. Harvesting times for both plantings should be in late summer.
As for why to grow garlic, well let me count the ways. First of all you get the joy and satisfaction of enjoying the rewards of your efforts. But that is not all. As stated above, garlic is a natural pest and fungus deterrent so planting it alongside your other crops can benefit them as well. Tomatoes, celery, carrots, herbs, beets, peppers, spinach, lettuce, strawberries and fruit trees are aided by garlic as the bulbs keep common pests away. However, avoid planting garlic and onions near beans, peas, sage and asparagus as they will compete with each other leading in negative results. Besides being helpful to plants, garlic is also good for our health. Numerous studies have been made on the benefits of garlic to prevent and improve a multitude of diseases and ailments. It has been linked to reducing heart disease, stroke, cancer and infections. Beyond all that it is certainly tasty and found in many recipes.
That is the How’s, When’s and Why’s of growing garlic. To see it in action be sure to watch our video: How to Grow Garlic at Home: It’s much easier than you think!