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Garlic: The Home Grown Difference

The best way to get fresh and organic vegetables is to grow them yourself and, while not as convenient as getting them from a local store, farm, or co-op, it can be a rewarding experience with many advantages.

There are some things that you must know about home gardens, specifically about garlic and the cultivation thereof, that will help you decide if home gardening is right for you. Let’s take a look at some of the dos and don’ts of growing garlic at home as well as the advantages that home growing provides. You should be able to decide if it’s a task you want to undertake after reading this article, and you can contact us here with any questions you might have about starting up! Let’s begin.

Tip #1: Timing

The first thing you need to know about garlic is when and where it grows best. All garlic types are similar in the fact that they favor certain conditions and times over others. Firstly, it’s important to know that garlic likes spring and fall over summer and winter. While it grows well in a variety of climates, planting garlic in the coolness of fall (6-8 weeks before the freeze) is best when farming in northern regions. If you live down south, early spring is more favorable. The humid climate of the southern United States is beneficial due to heavier amounts of rainfall. If you do live up north, make sure that you mulch heavily when planting your garlic as this will help protect your growing bulbs from the approaching winter freeze. Planting in these times will allow garlic to grow bigger and heartier than if grown otherwise, and will also allow for the best flavor.

Tip #2: Garden Preparation

The next thing you need to know is the way in which you ought to prepare for your new garden. Obviously, you need to pick a place that has plenty of exposure to the sun. The most important thing for a plant is its ability to photosynthesize, and shade is counter-productive to that process. Next, make sure that you avoid buying garlic from grocery stores. They usually treat their garlic with chemicals to extend shelf-life, and these chemicals make cultivating the plant very difficult and less fruitful. You’ll want to purchase your desired types of garlic from farms or nurseries that don’t use these chemicals. Finally, you’ll want to use a high-grade organic fertilizer. Your new bulbs need lots of nitrogen to grow healthily, and you’ll need to fertilize twice during the process; first at the time of planting, and again about three quarters of the way through. This means you ought to fertilize a second time in early spring if you plant in the fall, or in late summer to early fall if you plant in the spring. It all depends on where you live.

Tip #3: Planting & Maintenance

Another thing you need to know is how to plant and maintain your garlic garden. It’s pretty simple. Take each individual clove, space four to eight inches apart, place no more than two inches deep, and plant them vertically with the wide sides down. Be sure to mulch heavily before winter, and remove any mulch after the winter has passed. New garlic needs moist ground to grow, so water it often. As the garlic grows, water it less. Do not water your garlic during the winter months, as this will cause it to rot. Garlic needs hot, dry soil to mature; only water in the later months of development if you’re in a drought, and only once a week at that. Otherwise, don’t worry about it. Remember, young garlic loves water, old garlic hates it. Keep their beds weed free and remove any flowers that may pop up. Your soil needs to be sandy with lots of compost and fertilizer mixed in. This is vital to the garlic’s health and development. Using clay-based soil will thwart the growth and ruin your new garden. Beware of pests that would nest in your mulch and eat your crop. Try to get mulch and fertilizer that is unattractive to the known pests in your area. Do some research to find out what the local threats to your garden are and how to safely and organically repel them.

Tip #4: Harvesting

Finally, you’ll need to know how to harvest your new crop. Firstly, you need to know how to tell when your garlic is ready. It’s no big secret. When the garlic is ready there will be two tell-tale signs. Firstly, and most obviously, the scapes will turn brown or yellow. Scapes are the green stems that shoot out of the top of the bulbs. These can be cut off and eaten, but this can damage the bulb so beware. Secondly, the individual cloves can be felt composing the bulb. It’s important to know that once these signs are seen you must harvest the garlic quickly. Procrastinating may cause the bulbs to shatter and the cloves to separate. Also note that in warmer climates garlic may grow more quickly than in colder ones, lending to an earlier harvest time. If planted in the fall, you can expect your garlic to be ready in late summer given you live up north. If you live in the south, late fall is going to be your best bet for a good harvest. Take a shovel and carefully loosen the dirt around the bulbs. Garlic bruises easily, so treat it gently. After washing, you’ll want to store them in a dry and well ventilated place to dry out for a few days. Leaving them outside is fine, as long as they don’t get rained on or eaten by bugs or other hungry critters. Once all of that is done, your garlic will be ready to eat. Chop, dice, mince, saute, roast whole, or eat it raw. Whichever way you desire is fine, as long as you enjoy it.

The Take Away

It may seem like a lot of effort to grow your own garlic, and it can be at first. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing. It can be a long process, taking the better part of a year, so ample time to dedicate to it is a must. You must be patient, thorough, and gentle with your crop if you want it to grow well. Once you get it going and see the fruits of your hard work, you will be rewarded with the feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment that only come with creating something for yourself. The taste of your garlic will be all the more robust with the knowledge that it was you who grew it, and the pride felt after such an endeavor will make every meal that much more amazing. Give it a shot and taste the difference that home gardens bring. That’s why we started, and we’d be happy to help you do the same.