You can learn how to grow garlic successfully at home. All you need to do is provide a few basic requirements to have a fine crop of delicious, healthy garlic for your family's enjoyment.
Types of Garlic
There are three main types of garlic that you can choose from for your home garden. These types have sub-types, each with their own varieties.
- Elephant garlic, Allium ampeloprasum-Known for extremely large cloves and very mild flavor
- Common or softneck garlic, Allium sativum-Keeps well, good for braiding, mild flavor
- Hardneck garlic, Allium satvium-Easy to peel, ideal for cold climates, stronger flavor, doesn't store as well
- Purple stripe
How to Grow Garlic at Home
Whichever type of garlic you select, they will all have the same basic requirements. All prefer to be planted in fertile, well-drained, weed-free soil. It is a good idea to grow your garlic in raised bed or large containers so that you can amend the soil to meet the needs of your crop.Garlic likes to have loose, crumbly soil so you can add sand, peat moss or compost to improve the consistency. Compost also gives the added benefit of increasing fertility by adding organic matter. Some growers have excellent results by mixing manure into their garlic bed before planting.
A quality 10-10-10 fertilizer can also be mixed into the soil at a rate of one half pound of fertilizer per 25 feet of garden bed. This amount is based on a 12 inch wide row. This will give your garlic plenty of nutrients to grow large, healthy bulbs. Ideal soil will have a pH of 6.2 to 6.8.
Cold temperatures are important after planting to aid in the development of the garlic bulb. You should plant garlic from fall to early winter, usually after the first frost. If you are in a warm climate, you should store bulbs for planting in 50 degree temperatures for about nine months.
Choose only the largest cloves of garlic for planting. Large cloves will produce large bulbs. Garlic cloves will need to have the outer wrapping split before planting. Do not wait more than 48 after splitting to plant the cloves or they will dry out and won't grow.Each clove should be planted root side down and pointed end up. Cloves should be placed in the soil four to six inches apart to allow enough room for the bulb to form. Elephant garlic should be spaced six to eight inches apart.
Garlic plants like to be deep in the soil. Cover each clove with up to two inches of soil; three to four inches for elephant garlic. Mulch is highly recommended after planting. Not only will mulch help retain moisture, but it will also prevent weeds that can overpower your young garlic plants. A weed-free garlic bed is essential to growing a successful crop.
Now that you know how to grow garlic, you are probably wondering how to harvest your crop. While different varieties will mature at different rates, a good rule of thumb is to wait until the lower one third to one half of the leaves have turned brown. Most of the upper part of the leaves should still be green.You can also just dig up a bulb to see if the bed is ready for harvest, although if you have different varieties planted this may not be completely accurate.
When harvesting your garlic, be sure that you dig it up. Pulling by the leaves will just give you a handful of leaves as the bulb remains snuggly in the ground. Using a pitchfork will allow you to free the bulbs from the soil without damaging them.
Learning how to grow garlic is easy and well worth the effort. You'll agree after the first taste of your own homegrown garlic in your favorite dish.