Garlic is easier to grow than you might think. In fact, home gardeners have grown garlic in every state in the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii! Hence, there are varieties of garlic suited for every climate. Hardneck varieties prefer long, cold winters, so are better for northern climates, while softneck varieties are great for hotter areas.
As long as you have some basic gardening know-how, you can grow and harvest a crop of garlic to use in your kitchen and for home remedies.
Preparing the Garden Bed
Garlic grows best in a location that gets at least six hours of direct sun each day. Choose a site that will get the required amount of sun throughout the growing season for your garden region. If you don’t have a space that gets full sun, choose a site that gets partial sun during the hottest part of the day.
Because it’s a root vegetable, garlic grows best in a loamy soil; it needs a loose, non-compacted soil in order to develop large bulbs. Till the soil 10 inches deep and then amend the top 2 to 4 inches with manure or compost. Garlic loves manure and compost, so don’t skimp on this step! Manure contains the potassium garlic needs to develop large, strong bulbs.
If you have a heavy, clay soil in your area, grow your garlic in a raised bed with the soil prepared as described above.
Garlic can rot in overly moist soil, so don’t overwater or plant it in a damp area of the garden.
Growing in a Container: If you don’t have a garden, you can grow garlic in a pot. Just choose a pot that is at least 18 inches deep and 12 inches wide so the garlic roots have the room they need to spread out.
Garlic is grown from seed cloves, which are cloves from bulbs of garlic that has been left in the ground a little longer than the garlic bulbs that are intended for food. Usually seed cloves are chosen from the largest cloves on a bulb.
Garlic is best planted in the late fall, before the first frost, because it benefits from overwintering. The roots develop in the fall and winter, and garlic bulbs can be harvested in mid-summer.
Remove the cloves from the bulb the same day you plant them. In Southern regions, plant cloves at a depth of about 2 inches deep. In Northern regions, plant cloves about 4 inches deep. Garlic is a hardy plant, but planting cloves a bit deeper protects them from harsh Northern winters.
Generally, the larger the clove you plant, the larger the bulb will be. We recommend keeping the peel on the cloves to help protect them as they grow.
Always plant seed cloves pointy side up. If you plant the cloves pointy side down, the stem will still find its way to the sun, but your bulb will be misshapen. It will still be edible, of course, just not as pretty.
Did you know that garlic is a natural insect repellent? Some gardeners plant it around the borders of their vegetable gardens to ward off pests. You can also plant garlic in rows between compatible plants, which include lettuce, beets, broccoli, cabbage, kale, and tomatoes. However, avoid planting garlic with beans, peas, asparagus, sage, or parsley; garlic can actually stunt the growth of these plants.
Garlic doesn’t like to compete with weeds, so weed your garlic bed regularly to make room for the bulbs to grow.
Mulching Your Garlic Bed
Mulch is recommended for garlic plants. Choose compost or chopped leaves for mulching your garlic bed and lay down about 4 inches. Straw also works for mulching garlic, but avoid it if you live in a damp region, as it can mold.
Mulching will keep weeds down and protect plants against cold winters. It also helps prevent garlic roots from being heaved out of the soil as it freezes and thaws during the winter and spring.
Remove the mulch in the spring, after the last danger of frost.
Please tell us about your garlic garden. Do you grow in open land or in containers? Do you plant them near other crops? Do you have any tips about weeding or mulching? Please comment below and share your ideas.