I had been wanting to try growing my own garlic for some time. 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. So we go through quite a bit of garlic.
Several years ago, I finally gave it a try - and I'm hooked! 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 in your area) 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 deer, rabbits and moles.
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 and harvest in the late fall. (Planting should be done early enough in the fall to give the cloves time to sprout some roots before winter sets in.)
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. 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. Due to its pungent nature, moles, rabbits and deer tend not to bother with it.
You can mulch the cloves you just planted with about 4 inches of chopped straw, dried 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.
In the spring, when the green shoots start to poke through the ground, you can remove any remaining mulch. In late spring, start to snap off any 'scapes' that appear. They are the thin curly stems that grow up from the center of the clove and drain energy needed to grow the new bulb. Don't toss them! They're delicious cut into short lengths and tossed into a searing hot cast iron skillet with some olive oil, salt and pepper.
The garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves turn yellowish-brown and are starting to fall over. Using your fingers or a small rake or trowel, carefully dig up the bulbs.
Gently wipe off any dirt from the bulbs and then leave them to dry in an airy, shady spot for two weeks. You can braid them or tie them into bunches to dry. Or you can just trim off the roots and most of the stalks and lay them on a clothes drying rack or an oven rack.
After a few weeks, once the wrappers are dry and papery, you can then cut the tops completely off and store the garlic bulbs in a pantry, or just leave the bulbs braided hanging in a cupboard or pantry and cut them off one by one as you need to use them.
Be sure to save some of the largest cloves. In the fall, replant them for the following spring's harvest.
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 wonderful addition to your chicken's diet and has natural worming properties as well as benefits their immune system. Read HERE how to use garlic as a natural wormer paired with pumpkin seeds and nasturtium.
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|