This is part 5 of Growing your food series. We saw delicious fruits in part 4. Part 2 revolved around barrel potatoes. In part 1, we saw how can we grow tomatoes. Part 3 was my personal favourite, Cabbage.
Garlic is an herb that is planted around the world. It is similar to onion, leeks, and chives. It is believed that garlic is indigenous to Siberia, but spread to other parts of the world over 5000 years ago.
Garlic is generally used for conditions related to the heart and blood system. These ailments include high blood pressure, high levels of cholesterol or other fats in the blood, and hardening of the arteries.
In foods and beverages, fresh garlic, garlic powder, and garlic oil are used to add essence and flavor.
Do you want to plant garlic at your home? Raw garlic adds a rich and delightful taste to your cooking and is a fabulous addition to a kitchen garden or your backyard. You can even grow them on your patio in large containers. Picture the look on your neighbor’s face when you bring over garlic the size of apples and tell them that you grew it yourself.
Here are four points that can guide you in growing garlic:
- Use high-grade seed garlic for softball-sized bulbs.
Don’t waste your time and your energy growing mediocre tasting small garlic. For the best flavor and the most prominent size, buy gourmet hard neck garlic planting stock. Small white supermarket garlic is great for warding off vampires but a bad choice for growing. Supermarket bulbs may be used with a sprouting inhibitor to hinder growth. If they grow, they will likely have ordinary bulbs. On the other hand, hard neck garlic species have an exceptional gourmet taste and can grow as large as a softball. You can buy them at your local farmer’s market. If you think all garlic tastes like you will have a wonderful surprise in store. There are many types and tastes of this herb from mild to spicy hot. Good quality seed garlic is more costly than the supermarket stuff but worth it.
- Plant the largest cloves
In garlic, size matters. When you tear apart a garlic bulb you will see that the cloves are different sizes. Too often starved gardeners are tempted to eat the biggest cloves and give the smaller ones to plant. That is a mistake; there is a close correlation between clove size and eventual bulb size. To produce the blue ribbon winning bulbs, plant the biggest cloves you can find; even if you have to protect them from the family cook. I only save and plant the largest seed cloves and some of my garlic weighs over 1/3 of a pound per bulb.
- Prepare the soil correctly
Garlic grows best in loose soil with good sewerage. Make sure the farming site you choose is sunny and dry with well-drained soil. Garlic is not watercress and it will rot in the soil if it sits in standing water too long. Dig or till the plot well to loosen the soil. Root crops grow largest in eroded soil that is free of lumps. If your soil is hard clay, it may be easier to grow the pungent herb in an elevated bed filled with a better draining soil. When planning the planting bed, add loads of organic matter like compost, manure, or peat. Garlic is a big feeder and loves soil high in organic matter and nitrogen. The more natural and organic fertilizer you add to your soil in the fall the bigger the bulbs will be the next summer.
- Plant garlic cloves in the fall for a cover crop.
Hardneck garlic grows in the coolest part of the year. In the North, garlic grows a large root system during the coldest part of the year and pops up in the late winter-ready and raring to go. In the South, garlic needs to be exhibited to winter’s chill to develop a decent size bulb. Either way, fall planting will result in the largest crop. In the North plant cloves pointy end up and 4-6 inches deep. In most northern climates, you should plant cloves in September to early November, depending on the average winter temperatures. Those who live in colder areas need to seed sooner. You want to plant after the first frost but before the ground freezes solid; unless you are a very dedicated landscaper who likes to use a jackhammer to dig planting holes! Make sure to mulch with straw or compost to defend your cloves from the cold. In the South, plant cloves from October to December to take account of what little winter you receive. In either area, you can plant garlic in the spring, but the resulting bulbs will be much smaller.
Follow these fundamental tips and you too can be reaping delicious garlic bulbs!