When we shop for garlic in the market, many times, we doubt the quality and the preservatives used in it for increasing its shelf life. There is no doubt we don’t want to eat preservative food because it is unhealthy. But we have to buy them as they are available right next to us and we don’t have to work hard.
If you’re looking to start growing garlic, this is the post for you. It’s worth growing for your own use or perhaps even for sale. It’s pretty cheap to buy bulbs of garlic, but you’ll get great satisfaction from growing them yourself.
Growing garlic is actually easier than you think. Read on to learn how to grow garlic in your garden.
How to grow garlic?
1. Selecting a planting site for garlic
For the right selection of a plantation area, you should consider a place where the garlic can receive 6 to 8 hours of sunlight every day.
Preparing soil for planting garlic involves removing weeds and mixing in compost or other healthy soil additions. Double dig the garden bed so the soil will be loose and easy to work with.
If you’re planting in raised beds over 6 inches tall, add compost or other organic matter about six weeks before planting. So, the nutrients can break down and become available to your plants.
Another option is to use a top dressing of either alfalfa meal or soybean meal instead of compost, which can be added every couple of weeks through spring.
Gardeners in cooler climates should consider using raised beds to grow garlic. Raised beds keep the soil warmer than ground level, which helps garlic plants thrive even in cold regions. Using raised beds also makes harvesting easier as you can simply lift out mature bulbs without digging them up from the ground.
2. Plantation of garlic
It is essential to choose the correct garlic variation to grow in your garden. Look at a local nursery or seed catalog to see what types of garlic are recommended for your area, and select one that fits with your particular growing conditions.
Most nurseries will have clove varieties available, as well. When you get home, examine each clove separately. Look for cloves that are large, firm, and plump with very dry papery skin (the husk).
Smaller cloves may not have enough energy stored inside to grow a full-sized bulb. But, larger cloves may produce weak bulbs if they’re planted deep in the soil where they won’t receive enough sunlight or nutrients.
Planting cloves from different varieties together can result in a more flavorful crop since each variety will store its own unique flavor in its own section of the bulb. Be sure to plant them deeply enough so that the tip is about two inches underground when planted upright or the tips pointing up.
Recommendations for garlic varieties
Garlic comes in two main varieties: (2)
- Elephant headed garlic (which is not true garlic)
1. Soft-neck garlic
It is the most common type. It has a single, pliable stem that runs through the bulb, which can be braided or twisted. Soft necks are the most popular variety and are best suited to warmer climates since they often fail to sprout after a cold winter. They have long, thin leaves that grow in a loose rosette pattern. Their flavor is very intense and strong. The bulbs they tend to produce are bigger than hard-neck ones.
Soft-neck garlic has a large number of cloves per bulb with very thin papery skin that makes it easy to peel. It also stores better than hard-neck garlic because the cloves stay loose within the bulb rather than getting bound together by a stiff stalk.
2. Hard-neck garlic
Hard-neck garlic has a stiffer stem that runs through the center, forming individual cloves that are bound together and have thicker skin than soft-neck garlic. These varieties are more popular among northern gardeners because they are hardier. Hard-neck garlic is much more winter-hardy. They have a much lighter flavor than its soft-neck cousin. They also produce top-sets, which are small bulbs that grow out of the flower stem. These top-sets produce cloves that can be used to make new plants.
Hard-neck produces scapes that are basically a flower stem. It should be removed to enhance the growth of the cloves’ potential. Scapes have an intense, delicious garlicky flavor and make a great addition to stir-fry dishes, soups, or sautéed vegetable side dishes. These are a great treat for early summer.
3. Elephant garlic
Elephant garlic, or great-headed garlic, is not in the sense of true garlic. This type more closely resembles leeks than other diversities of garlic. Elephant garlic is not suggested if you’re looking for a garlic taste. It isn’t as hardy as other types and can be more difficult to grow in cool climates because it needs hot weather. It’s less likely to produce a usable bulb than hard-neck varieties.
The whole plant is edible; however, its milder flavor makes it best suited to dishes where its flavor won’t overwhelm the meal. The leaves are used as those of leek; the bulb can be eaten raw or cooked, and the cloves are used as those of onion. Elephant garlic has a large bulb with about 4 cloves per bulb.
Harvesting the garlic
Hard-neck should harvest when its bulb is fully established. The soft-neck garlic can generally bear more leaf dying before the actual harvesting period starts. Some gardeners wait till half the garlic plant falls to start harvesting. The last elephant garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves are bent over and, in the meantime dying. The ideal time for its harvest is 90 days after planting.
Right time for harvesting garlic
Harvesting garlic is a good time to take a peek at your planting. If you want a sample, lift out one or two bulbs and check for good solid flesh. The main thing to watch for is cracks in the outer wrapper. These are often caused by too much water and can result in moldy cloves later on. If you harvest too early, the bulbs may still be hard when you try to peel them. Wait another week or two before harvesting if this happens. A little patience will pay off!
Harvest the garlic in the fall. The best test of maturity is not by the calendar but by the appearance of the foliage, which begins to turn yellow and drop as the bulbs reach full maturity. The garlic will be sweeter if left in the ground until after a frost. This can be hard to time properly in warm climates, so it’s best to wait until the tops begin to yellow and then harvest all of your garlic at once.
Towards the end of winter, if conditions have been cold enough (but not freezing), you can leave your garlic in the ground with some protection for a soft-neck crop. Garlic planted in spring will be ready for harvest about 4-6 weeks later than fall-planted garlic and will be less pungent but still flavorful. Pull one or two plants before you plant your seed garlic out so that you can gently test their taste. If they are ready, they should taste like a good grocery store bulb of garlic and feel firm. If they are not quite ready, they will feel spongier or hollow inside when squeezed, and their flavor won’t be as strong.
You must wait until after the tops die back completely before harvesting. Dig carefully so as not to damage the bulbs (it’s best to have a helper). Once harvested, let the plants dry in a well-ventilated area for a couple of weeks so that any remaining moisture can evaporate from the roots. Then remove and discard about an inch of soil from around the roots and store them in a cool, dark place until use.
How to store garlic
For storing garlic, you need to cure them first. You can find the largest garlic bulbs are found at the bottom of the plants and have thick wrappers. The smaller bulbs may cause fewer problems when preparing them for storage and are often sweeter in flavor.
The curing process dries out and decays the outer leaves, allowing the bulbs to store better during the following winter months and preventing rot during harvest. To cure your garlic, leave it in a sunny location for two weeks or until the outer wrapper feels dry to the touch. If you want to accelerate this process, gently rub off some of the brown outer wrappers with your hands or a brush while it is drying outside.
Tie your garlic together with string or rubber bands if you plan on hanging it. Hanging allows air circulation around each bulb. Hence, speeding up the curing process and making your garlic easier to hang on to once it has dried out completely.
When the bulbs are dry, you can easily store them for a longer period. When the tops begin to wither and die back, trim them off. Let the garlic bulbs dry for two or three weeks—this will make peeling them easier.
Please store your fresh garlic in a cool and dark place and also make sure it doesn’t get too cold! Don’t store in your cellar if it’s damp! Do not store garlic in the fridge either. The flavor will rise as the bulbs are parched. Appropriately stored, garlic should last until the next crop is harvested the next summer. If you are going to plant again, save a few of your chief, best-formed bulbs to plant again in the next season.
Best weather to grow garlic
Garlic is a cool-season crop that can easily grow in most parts of the country. Garlic plants grow best when temperatures are between 32 and 50 degrees F. Plant garlic bulbs in early fall when the soil can be worked and the ground is dry enough to dig.
Although garlic is usually sown in the fall, it’s possible to grow garlic in the spring if you live in a warm climate. When planting garlic early, make sure you use a starter fertilizer that has phosphorus. Phosphorus encourages root growth and helps prevent the garlic from bolting.
In general, the weather needs to be cool—between 50°F—for garlic to form roots, and the time period requires 4 to 8 weeks. You can use row covers or cloches (modified cold frames) to protect your plants if temperatures become too warm.
Colder is better when it comes to growing garlic. If you live in an area with mild winters, mulch your plants with a 3-4″ thick layer of straw or leaves (this helps keep the ground from freezing). If there’s not enough foliage left on your plants after mulching, cover them with a thick layer of newspaper topped by another layer of mulch.
How to grow garlic indoors?
Start with one plant from an organic farm or a friend’s garden. Peel away the skin, leaving just the bulb and a bit of papery outer covering. Set the cloves on top of potting soil in a large pot or trough and water them lightly. The garlic will sprout in about seven to 10 days.
The benefits of garlic
Garlic might just be the most versatile food in the world. People have used it for thousands of years to treat and prevent illness. Most people use it as a treatment for heart disease, high cholesterol, and even cancer. Other benefits include lowering blood pressure, providing anti-oxidants, suppressing inflammation, and reducing blood clotting. The most important benefit of garlic is that it boosts our immune system. (1)
Why do we need to grow garlic? Although fresh garlic is available in markets year-round, it’s not as flavorful as homegrown garlic. Planting your own also allows you to choose from different varieties of garlic that suits your specific climate and area.
How to grow garlic? Growing cloves of garlic are easy, as long as you have the right conditions and know what to do. Garlic is a hardy, hardworking plant that will reward you with beautiful flowers, tasty bulbs, and pungent leaves all summer long. Description of all the steps is available above. Check them to grasp all the information you need to know about garlic.