I can’t think of a flavor that I love more than garlic.
It’s the perfect accent for any season; adding spice to summer salads and grilled entrees, and warmth to those savory winter soups and stews.
I also can’t think of a more exciting edible to grow. It goes into the ground as your other veggies are dying off in the fall, and then surprises you by emerging green and happy in the spring.
Last week I worked on putting in two new garlic beds and amending the soil with organic matter and compost. In a little over a month, I’ll be ready to push the cloves into the ground in preparation for next year’s harvest.
Why should YOU grow garlic?
Most conventional grocery stores only carry one, run-of-the-mill garlic variety. What a sad representation of the colorful food that garlic really is! There are a myriad of varieties and colors of garlic available online and even at your local gardening store.
Also, growing your own garlic ensures that you know exactly where it came from. Several months ago I found a bag of bulbs at my grocery store labeled “From China”. Yikes! I don’t know about you, but I prefer my food a little more local than that. 😉
Though garlic can be planted in the spring, most gardeners agree than fall planting is best for a abundant crop. Garlic actually prefers harsh weather, so those freezing winter temps won’t bother it a bit!
However, choosing the proper time to put your garlic in the ground is critical. It must be planted far enough ahead of the first frost to allow it’s roots to develop, but not so much that it sends green shoots above the ground. A good rule of thumb is to place it in the ground approximately 3-4 weeks before your last frost date.
Purchase your seed garlic online, or from your local gardening store. I wouldn’t recommend using grocery store garlic as seed, since it is often treated with an anti-sprouting compound.
Pick a sunny spot for your garlic beds with deep, loosened soil and plenty of compost.
Right before you are ready to plant, break apart the bulbs into individual cloves. Choose the largest, plumpest cloves to plant.
Plant the pointy end of the clove up (this is important!). Press it into the ground, about 2 inches below the surface, leaving approximately 6 inches between the cloves.
Water the beds for several weeks, then stop. There is no need to continue watering through the winter. A layer of mulch over the beds can help to regulate the temperature of the soil and keep the moisture in.
The best part of growing garlic is watching the green shoots pop through the ground in the spring. It’s a welcome sight after a long, dreary winter!
You’ll know it’s ready to be harvested the following summer when the leaves of the plant begin to dry up and turn brown. It’s also a good idea to allow the bulbs to air dry for several days before storing them to prevent rot and mold.
Though I’m far from a gourmet garlic grower, I know if I can grow it, then so can you! Happy fall planting!
Jill writes from the homestead she shares with her husband, baby daughter, and an ever-changing assortment of animals. When she’s not in the kitchen preparing traditional foods, you’ll find her outside riding her horses, growing vegetables, milking goats, and killing rattlesnakes. She shares homesteading tales and kitchen tips at her blog, The Prairie Homestead.