I have been wanting to try growing my own garlic for some time now. Not only do I cook regularly with fresh garlic and we eat a lot of it ourselves, I also supplement our chickens' diet with fresh minced garlic as well as add whole cloves to their water. For more on using garlic to keep your chickens healthy READ HERE.
It turns out garlic is pretty easy to grow. You just basically stick a clove in the ground in the fall (5-6 weeks before the first expected frost) and in the spring you'll have grown an entire bulb. Okay, it's not quite that easy, but almost! And the best part is that for the most part, insects leave it alone as do rabbits and moles.
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Coincidentally, one of my favorite magazines Urban Farm featured an article on planting garlic in their September/October 2012 issue. So I was finally motivated to plant our first garlic crop.
Fall planting (with an early summer harvest) is recommended for the largest, tastiest bulbs, but in the South you can plant in February/March as well.
Although you can plant store-bought garlic cloves, it is preferable to find an organic bulb or local garlic at a farmer's market, so you know it hasn't been treated with any pesticides or chemicals.
Break the bulb into cloves and choose the largest cloves to plant. Be sure to leave the papery covering on them. Garlic prefers full sun and well-drained soil so plan your planting spot accordingly.
Plant the cloves tip side up about 4-6 inches apart and with the tip about 2 inches below the surface. You can mulch the cloves with about 4 inches of chopped straw, leaves or hay. The mulch will keep the soil a more even temperature through the winter which helps the roots remain in place and also helps to retain moisture and keep weeds down.
Planting in the fall should be done early enough to give the cloves time to sprout some roots before winter sets in. (This clove that I planted just last week already has some nice roots growing)
In the spring, when the shoots start to poke through, remove the mulch. Snap off any 'scapes', the thin curly stems that grow from the center of the clove. They drain energy needed to grow the new bulb.
~Here it is in February, going strong despite two snow storms and temperatures down to 16 degrees~
|-here's how my garlic looks in March. Still a few months from harvesting-|
The garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves turn yellowish-brown and fall over. Dig up the bulbs and be sure to save the largest cloves to replant the following fall.
Dig up your bulb with a trowel and wipe off any dirt and then leave in an airy, shady spot for two weeks. You can braid them or tie them into bunches. Once the wrappers are dry and papery, and the roots dried, you can then cut the tops and roots off and store in a pantry, or just remove the roots and leave the bulbs braided, hanging in a cupboard or pantry. In the fall, replant some of your largest cloves.
6/11/2013 Update: I just harvested my first garlic bulb! Mid-June, maybe a bit early because it's kind of small, but still, I'm impressed! I grew a whole bulb from just one clove! And it was super easy! It smells SO good! So much more pungent and fresher than store bought. I'll leave the others for a few more weeks before I harvest them, but we'll enjoy this bulb now!
Garlic is a natural fungicide and pesticide, so it will help reduce aphids on your tomatoes or roses. It also is a good companion plant for fruit trees, strawberries, cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli.
I planted six garlic cloves in our strawberry bed and mulched them with chopped straw for a comfy winter resting place.
Garlic is a wonderful addition to your chicken's diet and has natural worming properties as well as benefits the immune system. Read HERE how to use garlic as a natural wormer paired with pumpkin seeds and nasturtium.
You can also grow garlic indoors year round. Just fill a pot or planter with potting soil and plant several cloves, point up, 1" deep. Be sure the container gets plenty of full sun and water when the soil starts to dry out. When the scapes start to appear and have grown to 3-4 inches, trim all but 1" off. Keep trimming the scapes off. When they turn brown and dry up, your garlic bulb is ready. Dig it up, retain one clove to replant and start over!
When the scapes finally turn brownish yellow and dry up, dig up the bulb. Take a clove from that and start over!
Have to ever planted garlic? If not, did this article give you the confidence to try? I would love to hear your experiences growing garlic....
|The Complete Book of Garlic|
|The Stinking Rose Restaurant Cookbook|
|Garden Tool Set|