Growing garlic is so rewarding and easy. Home-grown garlic tastes so much better than store bought garlic hands down. Not only does garlic taste better home-grown, but you can try so many different varieties which offer many different flavors. Once you grow garlic for the first time, you will always grow your own garlic.
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You can buy garlic from just about anywhere. There are many websites, big box stores, and plant nurseries that sell garlic bulbs for fall planting. You can even grow the garlic you buy from the grocery store! Before you pick out your garlic, you will want to know your growing zone. There are many varieties of garlic and they all grow differently in different zones. If you want garlic that you know will grow well for you, it’s best to shop with a garlic grower within your state or similar growing zone. I grow garlic in Ohio, so I order my garlic from a garlic seller right here in the Buckeye state. I know that the garlic I order from them should do well for me.
A good garlic harvest starts with planting in good soil. Garlic grows best in loose soil with a PH between 6.2 – 7. Anything lower means your soil is a bit too acidic, and you will need to add in lime to get your levels up. You can use at-home soil tests that are widely available in store or online. Here’s a test you can snag from Amazon. Growing garlic will require a loose soil. Tilling your native soil will help loosen it up and if needed, you can add in compost to help keep the soil fluffy.
Prior to planting, I add in my fertilizer. I also like bone meal, which is great for planting your garlic in because it helps give your cloves a little root boost prior to winter. Once spring approaches, I start fertilizing regularly with an organic fertilizer. My favorite to use is fish emulsion. When your garlic begins to produce scapes, lay off on the fertilizer so that your garlic can focus its energy into bulb production.
Separate each bulb into cloves, making sure to leave the skin on the individual cloves. Any cloves that are small, rotted, or dried can be left out. Plant your garlic in rows and space out your bulbs 6 – 8 inches apart to leave enough room for your clove to develop into large bulbs. I plant my garlic pointy side up no matter if its hard or soft neck garlic. Planting garlic two to three weeks before your first frost is a great time because it allows the garlic time to set roots before the first frost. After planting, we place a small layer of mulch over the top.
The Garlic Flower
Beginning in May or earlier or a little later depending on your growing zone, you will begin seeing your garlic send up flower stalks also known as scapes. Scapes are delicious but take energy away from the growing garlic bulb. Most gardeners cut these off once they start to curl.
Want to know what to do with your garlic scapes? Check out this post!
Harvesting time may vary depending on where you live but the rule of thumb is when the lower leaves dry and fall off. If you want to take a peek at your bulbs to see if they are big enough; feel free to pull the soil back from the bulb. If you think they need a little more time in the ground, then leave them for a week or two more. The latest I’ve harvested is mid-July. If you leave the bulbs in the ground too long, you risk the chance of them splitting and you don’t want that, as those bulb won’t store very well.
Drying and Storage
Curing your garlic can seem daunting. All you need is a space that is dry or not too humid and has good airflow. You can put your garlic in your garage or on a covered porch. Be sure if it’s not windy you keep a fan on them to aid in the drying process. I cure my garlic on wire racks in my screened in porch. The goal is for the wrappers around the individual cloves and the bulb to dry at the same pace. It takes around 3-4 weeks for the garlic bulbs to fully dry. Once they are dry you can cut the stalks back and store your garlic. Garlic shelf life depends on how you store them and the variety of garlic you grew.
For Tips on what to do with all of your garlic check out this post!
Growing garlic is one of the easier vegetables to grow. They are low maintenance and there aren’t many pest issues to deal with. Keep up with watering and fertilizing, and you will soon be harvesting your own delicious garlic straight from the garden.