If you cook at all, there’s a good chance garlic is a staple in your kitchen. You can grow your own, picking, if you’re also a gardener. Additionally, the elevation of these plants, reaching two feet, and their gray-green leaves make them a nice addition to your garden bed.
Garlic is a true fall crop. You set it out in autumn and harvest another summer (you may plant in early spring, however, your crop won’t be as great). It’s also easy to grow. You may find garlic bulbs (also known as sets) at nurseries or in catalogs. You may try growing from bulbs picked up at your grocer’s, but they might be treated to prevent sprouting and not develop too, or whatsoever.
There are two distinct types of garlics: softneck and hardneck. The first are used for traditional garlic braids and do well in mild-winter climates. The next are better for cold-winter ponds. Hardneck varieties can also be distinguished by the slats that they develop above the leaf stalks, also known as scapes. The very big, suitably named elephant garlic is really a kind of leek.
More: How to grow cool-season vegetables
When to plant: Plant in autumn for the best results. Planting times change. In cold-winter areas, plant roughly six months before the ground freezes. In mild-winter locations, wait until after, typically after the first frost. Tradition says this year’s day or plant on the autumn equinox.
Time to maturity: About 9 weeks
Light requirement: Full sun
Water requirement: Keep the soil moist but not overly moist or soggy.
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Planting and care: Split the bulbs into individual cloves. Utilize the biggest cloves that have roots attached. Set in the dirt so that the points face up; the top of the clove should be about two inches deep, and the cloves should be put 6 to 8 inches apart; plant elephant garlic a bit farther apart. Cover them and keep the soil moist but not soggy. In cold-weather climates, thoroughly cover with mulch during the winter to avoid any dirt heaving caused by temperature fluctuations.
Remove the mulch in spring and keep to keep the soil moist while the bulbs develop. Maintain the backyard bed well weeded, but be careful not to harm the bulbs. Stop watering when the tips of the leaves begin to turn brown.
There are different schools of thought on whether to eliminate the scapes from hardneck garlic. If you want, eliminate them once they shape and cook them up as a type of green — if you prefer the flavor of the garlic you’re growing, then you will probably enjoy the scapes.
Though garlic plants are usually pest free, they could create some problems. Problems like thrips can usually be solved by good gardening practices. Avoid root maggots by not planting where you have implanted other members of the onion family at the past two years. White rot may also be a problem, as well as some other diseases. If a disease develops, pull out the plant and dispose of it.
Harvest: You can pick off a few of the leaves to utilize when they’re about a foot tall, but do not remove all of these. After about three-quarters of the leaves have turned brown, carefully remove the bulbs with a garden fork to prevent breaking them apart. You might want to crop softneck garlic somewhat earlier if you plan to braid it. Hang the bulbs in bundles at a sterile, well-ventilated place until the skins become brittle and paperlike, typically about three to fourteen days. At that point, remove any dirt and cut nearly all of the roots. Shop in a net bag in a cool, well-ventilated place out of direct sunlight.
More: How to Grow Cool-Season Vegetables