Growing Garlic in the Home Garden

Garlic (Allium Sativum L.) is an essential ingredient in many cuisines and for good reason. Garlic not only adds flavors to foods, it also possess great health benefit. Eating garlic regularly can lower cholesterol level, ease hypertension. Garlic also has anti-bacterial and antioxidant quality, therefore can help prevent improve your health. Home grown garlic has a special pungent and sweet taste.

There are many different varieties of garlic; they can be divided into hard-neck types and soft-neck types. The hard-neck varieties produce fewer, larger cloves surrounding a hard center woody stem. The soft-neck varieties do not have a stiff stem growing in the center; instead the center of the bulb is filled with smaller sized cloves. Farmer’s markets are a good source to obtain seed garlic. If you can find a garlic festival nearby, it will be well worth a trip. You will be able to find all kinds of varieties to grow in your own garden.

The garlic will start to grow prior to the arrival of winter, and then become dormant during the winter. When spring arrives, the garlic start to grow again and ready to be harvested in the summer. It is important to plant garlic in near the autumn equinox, this will ensure the garlic develop just enough before going to dormant, but not too much. If the garlic developed too much before going into dormancy, it will hurt the development of the bulb later.

1. Soil preparation
Work soil up by digging with a shovel to about 8” deep, loose up the soil and break up the clumps. Form a 3 feet wide bed. Add 2”-3” compost to the bed and rack it into the soil

2. See Garlic Selection: Select large firm garlic bulbs for planting. Separate the bulbs into individual cloves, discard the small ones, keep only the large healthy cloves for planting. The size of the seed garlic has the greatest impact on the quality of bulbs it produces.

3. Planting: Garlic typically takes 7-8 months to develop. Plant garlic the fall, bottom side down 1.5”-2” deep, space the garlic cloves 4-5” apart. It is important to leave enough space so it is easier when you weed the garlic later on.

4. Care of garlic in the growing season:
a) Water the garlic when the ground is dry in the spring.
b) Remove weeds to they do not compete nutrients with the garlic, at the same time, loosen the soil so the garlic bulbs will have an easier time to grow and expand.
c) Garlic will develop shoots (also called garlic scapes) in early summer; remove them as they develop. The shoots are garlic’s way of producing seeds, removing the scapes will direct more energy towards developing the garlic bulbs. Plus, they are delicious in stir-fries (see recipe).
d) Water the garlic well again after the scapes are removed, this will allow the garlic bulbs to expand.
e) Harvest the garlic in later summer when the tips of the garlic begin to show some yellowing. Harvest garlic bulbs by digging them up, leave them in the ground for a day or two to allow some drying.
f) Braid the garlic together and hang them up to allow continued drying, this process is called curing. Properly cured garlic will last 8-10 month.