How to Grow Garlic: The Basic Things You Need to Know
If you are planning to grow an edible garden around the house, garlic is one of the best starter plants. Garlic is rather easy to grow even for beginners. In fact, garlic is an essential item in the kitchen.
Many foods recipe call for garlic as its basic ingredients. Thus, growing it in your garden would give the benefits of having fresh garlic for your cooking.
The secret to how to grow garlic in your garden is to know the right time to start. Next, you may also need to know how to cure garlic for home uses. To start the process, first, you have to determine which garlic variety to use in your climate.
1. Two Basic Varieties of Garlic
Every part of the garlic plant is edible. However, the garlic plant is basically harvested for its bulb—the part that grows just below the surface, and it’s the organ where the plant stores its food in winter.
The garlic bulb or head contains several garlic cloves depending on its variety. The whole garlic head is usually covered with brown or white, papery skin which can be a good agent to preserve the garlic after it is harvested.
The first variety is the hard neck garlic. The hard neck garlic has a sturdy tubular stem which grows into a flower stalk a few weeks before it finished growing. This kind of garlic is best to grow in a colder climate. During the winter, the plant will form the bulbs which then divided into cloves inside.
With this hard neck garlic variety, it is possible to have two harvests from one plant. Besides the garlic clove from the heads, the stem which is called the garlic scape can also be harvested and used in the kitchen. It has a mild garlicky flavor and can be added to numerous cuisines.
Another variety is the soft neck garlic. You may easily find this type of garlic in stores. It doesn’t have any garlic scape like the hard neck variety, but its leaves can be braided and preserved. This type of garlic can be planted in a warmer area and has a long shelve time once harvested.
If you are not sure which variety to use, you can contact your local farmer who grows garlic and buys some seeds from them. It is not recommended to just buy the garlic clove on the store and plant it. The garlic sold on the store might be imported or come from an area which doesn’t have the same climate as yours.
2. The Best Time to Grow Garlic
Since garlic clove is produced when the plant starts to store food in its organs, it is best to plant garlic around 4 – 6 weeks before the cold season. In the northern zone, it is recommended to plant the garlic in October, in a location exposed to the sun 6 – 8 hours a day and properly drained soil.
Once the temperature goes down, you may need to cover the soil with mulch to keep the plant from overwintering, and to conserve the moisture under the soil.
The garlic may go dormant in winter but will grow rapidly once the soil gets warmed in spring, and it’s ready to be harvested around summer in July.
3. Growing garlic when You Have Limited Area to Plant
In a large area, garlic seeds or cloves can be planted in rows with a space of 4 to 8 inches, and 6 to 12 inches space between each row. However, it is possible to plant garlic in a limited area.
You may use a raised bed which has a height between 10 to 12 inches, and the spaces between each seed or clove can be reduced to a closer measure. However, it is essential to make sure that the soil has good moisture so that the plant gets enough nutrients.
Growing garlic indoors can also be possible for those who live in an apartment with no yard. The success key of how to plant garlic in a limited area is to keep the soil well-drained and expose it to direct sunlight at least 6 hours a day.
4. Steps and Tips in Planting Garlic
As mentioned before, garlic is an easy plant to grow, maintain, and harvest. However, there are several things that you need to do in planting garlic:
- Check out your soil
If the soil is heavy, you should consider adding compost to it. You don’t have to make the soil compact by stepping on it, make the soil well-drained and loosen the texture instead.
If possible, check out the pH balance of your soil. If the pH is lower than 6.0, you can pour out some garden lime and mix thoroughly a few weeks before planting garlic begins.
- Start Planting
If you are using seeds, you can start by making rows of holes to plant it. However, if you are using the head of garlic to start, you need to separate each clove and place the flat end on the bottom side of the soil.
Remember, you don’t have to remove the garlic skin off. In several weeks, the stem and flower stalks would start to appear. Make sure that you get rid of it so that the garlic plant concentrates on growing its head or bulb under.
- Fertilize and Water Frequently
Garlic plant needs a lot of nutrients. How to grow garlic in a healthy environment is to use chicken manure or Osmocote fertilizer to feed the plants. Keep the soil moisture, and expose it to direct sunlight 6 to 8 hours a day. Through winter, it is recommended to put around 6 inches layer of mulch to keep the moisture under the ground.
- Harvesting Garlic
Harvesting garlic can be a tricky job to do. The reason behind it is that you should pull out the plant in perfect timing. Otherwise, you would possibly have the head of garlic without cloves or small garlic heads. To harvest the garlic, pay attention to the stem and leaves.
Some say that the best time to pull out the plant in how to grow garlic is when you see 75% of the plant dries and goes brown in color. It means that the plant is ready to harvest. However, you can also count the approximate duration of the planting. If you are planting in October, expect to harvest the garlic around July.
The key to how to grow garlic in your edible garden or even the porch in an apartment is to have good seeds to star. In fact, growing garlic requires less effort that you would be surprised that it is harvest time already.