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Growing Garlic: What You Need to Know About This Easy Crop

Growing garlic is easy, making it a perfect crop for beginning gardeners -- it is rarely affected by pests and is a pest deterrent when planted near other crops. It is not fussy about soil conditions, is cold-hardy, and stores well. If you ever wanted to try growing one thing, garlic may be for you.

Why Grow Garlic

Garlic is a staple in my little kitchen. We go through a couple of heads a week, more in the winter because it’s in every soup recipe I make. It’s the first thing I look for when I start to get that sick feeling (chicken soup, anyone?) and it’s in my plague tonic, which I’m positive has spared me from many a cold virus. It’s safe to say, I always need garlic and I need it in large quantities. 

Time Frame for Garlic

Seed garlic can be purchased online from many retailers, including Gardener's Supply, and should be planted at the same time as flower bulbs, in late October or November. It will begin to grow during the cold months and will really take off in early spring. Garlic is usually harvested around mid-June, left in the shade to cure for two weeks, then can be stored for the following winter.

Tips for Growing Garlic

  • Space cloves about 4 inches apart. Any closer and the heads will grow smaller, farther apart and you’re wasting space and making room for weeds. 
  • Every online resource will tell you something different about planting depth for garlic. That’s because everyone plants in a different climate. For those of us in NW Arkansas, planting each clove one inch below the soil’s surface is ideal. I like to top with a few inches of mulch for weed control and to insulate the soil. 
  • Garlic is as complicated or simple as you want to make it. You can purchase fancy varieties online, or simply buy a few heads at the Farmer's Market.
  • Garlic is a root crop, and as such needs well drained soil. The looser the soil, the larger the heads will get, so break up the area well with a spade to get bigger garlic.
  • Nutrient-rich soil is always best so add a good quality compost into the soil before planting.
  • Soft-neck garlic grows scapes. Trim these off in the spring before they bloom to get bigger garlic heads. Cook the scapes or pickle them -- they have great flavor!

Types of Garlic

Softneck:  Milder flavor, better storage
Hardneck: More flavorful, doesn't store as well as softneck
Elephant Garlic: Not a true garlic, as it is more closely related to onions. Great flavor, easy to cook with.

Growing garlic is an easy process, but it does take some time. As your garlic grows, observe the process and enjoy each step!

What is your favorite way use garlic in the kitchen?


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