Nearly every meal in my home starts with a heaping portion of garlic. I could rave about it for hours but chances are if you've found your way here, I doubt you need to hear about how delicious it is! Garlic is also a potent medicinal herb and has numerous health benefits!We use it here for cough syrups and warming teas, it goes into the fire cider I make every fall, and is also a key ingredient in many home ferments.
As prevalant and popular as garlic is, growing it is often overlooked in the vegetable garden.
Unlike most garden veggies, which you plant in the mad frenzy of Spring, garlic is one that goes into the garden during the fall. Though often overlooked, garlic is one of the easiest and more rewarding vegetables to grow!
Here in the midwest, you can plant garlic from September-November. Personally, I like to plant mine in mid-October after we've gotten our first frost. That gives me time to finish harvesting all of that summer abundance and embrace the cooler weather and is enough time for the garlic to get established and watered in by our fall rains before the ground freezes.
Choosing your garlic
There are dozens of different garlic varities that vary in flavor and color, but they are all divided into two main categories: hardneck or softneck. There are pros and cons to each so I'll give you a quick breakdown.
Very cold hardy, which is ideal for colder climates
They form delicious scapes or "flower stalks" that are harvested in the spring and can used as just as garlic would be.
Cloves are uniformly sized and easier to peel
Hardneck varities do not store as well as softneck varities
Better for warmer climates
Softneck garlic is better for long-term storage
Their bulb forms many dense cloves which vary in size from large to small
They do not form a scape which allows you to braid them for storage
Here in the midwest we are able to grow both, but I prefer to grow hardneck for the scapes and the uniformly sized cloves. Garlic scapes are the flowering portion of hardneck garlic which taste just like it with more of a greenbean texture. I love them grilled, pickled, fermented or simply diced and added to whatever dish I am making.
Whichever variety you choose, be sure to purchase from a reputable source! Garlic at the grocery store is often irradiated and may not sprout in your garden. I got mine from Mad River Garlic Growers which is an Ohio-based farm that specializes in growing garlic for planting, they ship nationwide! You can also check your local farmer's market for an organic grower.
Planting Your Garlic
Start by preparing your planting bed. Make sure it is as weed-free as possible because garlic does not compete well.
If necessary, add ammendments to your soil. I like to top-dress my planting beds with a bit of compost in the rows I am going to be planting in.
Dig trenches or holes that you will be planting in. I like to dig trenches in rows 6 inches apart and 2-3 inches deep, into which I add my finished compost. You can also dig holes 6 inches apart.
Plant individual cloves 6 inches apart and 2-3 inched deep. Be sure to plant them with their rootside down and their tips pointing upwards.
Cover with mulch. Straw is commonly used but I prefer shredded leaves.
Garlic will begin sprouting in very early spring and is typically ready to harvest once the bottom few leaves have turned brown. Here in Ohio that is usually in early July.
Do you have any questions about growing garlic? Let me know!