Are you an avid home cook with a passion for garlic? If so, today's blog post is tailor-made for you. Garlic, known for its robust flavor and culinary versatility, is a staple in countless dishes. But did you know that you can easily grow your own garlic at home? Many people find the prospect of growing garlic intimidating, but fear not—garlic is one of the easiest crops you can cultivate.
Space, Attention, and Time: The Simple Equation
Growing garlic doesn't demand much from you. It doesn't require extensive space or constant attention. What it does require is time. Yes, time is the essential ingredient in the garlic-growing recipe. If you're looking to harvest garlic in 2022, the clock is ticking, and you need to get started now!
Choosing What to Plant
First things first: garlic isn't grown from seeds. Instead, it's grown from individual cloves found within a garlic bulb (or head). Each garlic clove has the remarkable ability to grow into a whole bulb when planted. Given that a single bulb typically contains between 4 and 15 cloves, you can potentially harvest 4-15+ garlic plants or bulbs the following year from just one bulb.
There are two main types of garlic you can explore:
Hardneck Garlic: This variety produces a scape, making it more suitable for colder climates and shorter storage periods.
Softneck Garlic: Lacking a scape, softneck garlic is better suited for warmer climates and boasts longer storage capabilities.
While you can delve into a deep dive of garlic varieties online, a straightforward way for most home growers to find the right garlic for their area is to visit a local farmers' market and buy garlic directly from farmers. They can provide valuable insights into what grows well in your region. In the future, as you establish garlic in your garden, you can replant a portion of the garlic you harvest.
Timing Is Crucial
One common mistake when growing garlic is waiting until spring to start. Garlic requires exposure to cold temperatures to initiate the bulbing process at a cellular level. To grow robust garlic bulbs, you must plant them in the previous fall so they can overwinter in the ground. Attempting to plant garlic in the spring will yield results more akin to scallions.
In regions like Wisconsin, a typical planting window is around Halloween, adjusting based on the fall's warmth. Ideally, wait for the first frost in your area, and then plant within the next week. The goal is to allow cloves to establish roots and send shoots into the soil before winter, while avoiding early shoots emerging above ground before freezing temperatures and snowfall.
As the weather gets colder, garlic plants go dormant, then start growing again with the arrival of spring's warmth, continuing their growth until harvest in mid-summer.
Selecting the Perfect Spot
When choosing a location for your garlic, consider whether it provides the ideal conditions for growth. Garlic thrives in full sun, requiring at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. It also needs loose, well-draining soil enriched with organic matter to provide the necessary nutrients and room for bulb expansion. Keep in mind that the chosen spot will be off-limits for other crops until mid-July when garlic is ready for harvest.
Planting Garlic: The How-To
To prepare the soil, enrich it with compost or nitrogen fertilizer. Garlic is a nutrient-hungry plant, so ensure the soil is nutrient-rich before planting.
When you're ready to plant, break apart the cloves, selecting the largest and healthiest ones. No need to remove the papery covering. Discard any damaged or discolored cloves.
Dig holes 3 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart (4 to 9 per square foot). Place one garlic clove in each hole, with the pointy end facing upward. Fill the holes with soil, water thoroughly, and apply a 4-6 inch layer of straw mulch. This mulch acts as insulation, protecting the plants during winter.
And there you have it! With your garlic comfortably nestled in the soil, you can now look forward to spring, just as your garlic does.
If you'd like a handy checklist for your gardening endeavors, including garlic care and harvesting tips for the future, you can download a free PDF Growing Garlic Guide by signing up on our website.
Thank you for joining us on this journey of discovery in the world of home gardening. We hope you've gained valuable insights that will make your garden thrive and bring even more joy to your culinary adventures. Happy gardening!