Do you know how to grow garlic? Garlic is a fun and easy crop that saves you money on a super-healthy food!
Each of those little cloves is actually a seed for another full head of garlic, so you can replant your garlic endlessly. You can also enjoy the delicacy of a lesser-known garden gem called spring garlic, which is the scallion-like immature plant, before it begins bulbing. Spring garlic is one my favorite treats of early spring, perfect sauteed with early-maturing spinach served over pasta with parmesan cheese. Recipe here.
Why Grow Garlic?
Besides being a flavorful addition to salsas, sauces, soups, and more, garlic deserves the label “superfood” for its impressive medicinal qualities. It’s considered an effective antimicrobial and may even protect against some types of cancer. Keep garlic around to ward off colds. Many folks swear by raw garlic for stopping viral infections in their tracks, and some limited research suggests they’re on to something. (I’m not into swallowing plain raw garlic as some advise, but mixing some fresh crushed garlic into chicken soup has perhaps helped me keep some colds at bay. I also consume a lot of elderberry tea when I feel a cold coming on.)
I choose about 6 of my biggest cloves to grow new bulbs, and space them about 6″ apart. You might want to grow more; I get a lot of garlic as part of my CSA, so I don’t need to grow much for bulb garlic. But there’s never enough spring garlic!
Then I plant at least a dozen–sometimes two dozen–of my smaller cloves for spring garlic closer together (2-3″). When they’re ready, they look like large scallions, and you pull them up whole, using mainly the white part.
How to Grow Garlic: When and How to Plant
- Fall is the preferred time to plant garlic, allowing the bulbs to put down roots before winter. Spring planting is possible, but less reliable, and typically yields smaller bulbs. My CSA farmers, who taught me about planting garlic and grow some of the most gorgeous and flavorful garlic I’ve ever seen, shoot for Halloween so no bulbs try to send up shoots before our loooong winter. I’ve read we amateurs might do better planting a bit earlier, but not so early that our garlic gets confused and starts sending up shoots before the frost.
- Get your garlics before they produce scapes, or the stalks get tough. You can harvest them anytime before that as well, but the longer you wait, the bigger they’ll be.
- For your bulb garlic, you need to cut off the scape so the plant can focus its energy on bulb production. Let scapes grow till they start curling, and then you can use these tasty parts of the plant as well. Scapes are a great addition to stirfries or can be used in place of regular garlic in pestos and other dishes.
- When you see the stalk yellowing, keep a watchful eye on your plants. When the plant is about 1/2-2/3 yellowed, dig up a bulb to see how it’s doing. Dig carefully, or you can split your bulbs. If you do split one, you can still use it right away, but it won’t store.
- When the bulbs you dig are well-formed and the cloves fill their skin, they’re ready. If you leave them in too long, the bulbs will start separating. Dig them up carefully, and leave the stalks on and let them cure for a couple weeks in a well-ventilated, shady spot. It’s best to leave them dirty.
- Once the roots are dry and the wrapping is papery, you can trim off roots, leaves, and extra dirt. Leave the paper on.
- Keep in a cool, dark place, and your bulbs should be good for months. You can also try fermenting some. Instructions from Seeking Joyful Simplicity here.
- Don’t forget to save your largest bulbs for replanting!
Bonus tip: In late winter, when the garlic in your pantry is getting sprouty, plant it in a container inside your house for tasty garlic scallions! More details here.
Have you ever grown your own garlic? Think you might try it this season?
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Photo Credits: Isabel Eyre, Kasey Eriksen via Flickr
Shared at The Art of Homemaking Mondays
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