Garlic is amazingly easy to grow, and is one of the few crops that never fails me (unlike my onion fail and micro-potato harvest). I’ve grown it for several years in our backyard garden and always end up with a great harvest.
It’s a good thing, too, because we LOVE garlic. It’s a key player in my homemade pesto and is amazing in Honey-Garlic Chicken. If you have a little patch of sunny garden, give it a try! Here’s how easy it is.
Prepare your soil. I’ve grown garlic in pots, garden boxes, and directly in the soil. My best results come from planting in soil, probably because we have very hot summers and the pots and garden boxes don’t retain enough water.
We’re in California (Zone 9), so Grandpa says to plant garlic between Halloween and Thanksgiving (the earlier, the better). This year, I chose a spot between the raised beds and the birdbath in the backyard, pulled all the weeds, and mixed in a healthy dose of compost.
Just like veggies, garlic needs to be spaced properly so it has room to grow. Hubby made me this plantermajigger from a piece of scrap wood and some dowels.
Just push into the soil and presto! Perfectly spaced planting holes, about three inches deep and three inches apart. If you don’t have a plantermajigger, poke holes in the soil with a pencil or stick.
Now it’s time to prep your seed garlic. I like the different varieties at Filaree Farm, but you can use organic garlic from the farmers’ market too. Don’t use the kind at the grocery store, because it’s usually sprayed with chemicals and stuff that keeps it from sprouting. This is Chesnok Red and Basque Turban.
Take off the outside “paper” so you can see the individual cloves.
Then pop the cloves off the base and get ready to plant. Note: don’t plant the tiniest cloves, like the one in the lower left corner. Tiny cloves make tiny crops! Save those for cooking or adding to homemade balsamic vinaigrette.
You’ll push one clove into each of the little holes you made. Be sure you’re planting them right side up, like this. Each individual clove will grow into an entire head of garlic! Don’t worry if you think you’ll end up with too much garlic (is that possible?). It’s easy to freeze it for future recipes.
There they are, all lined up and ready to grow. Spread soil over, pat down gently, and wait. I like to give them a drink of diluted kelp fertilizer to start ’em off right.
After a week or so, you’ll see them sprouting (*cough* among the weeds *cough*).
Now it’s time to do something that seems counterintuitive–we’re going to cover the entire area with straw.
Why on earth would we do that? If you’ve ever had garlic sprout on your counter, you know it will grow under the toughest conditions. The straw insulates the ground, keeps the soil moist, and prevents the weeds from growing. The garlic will go right through the straw, and the weeds won’t.
The garlic will grow all through the winter and spring and will be ready to harvest in June or July. Here’s to another great crop!
This wisdom and more available in Growing Great Garlic: The Definitive Guide for Organic Gardeners and Small Farmers.