If you’d like to grow garlic, you’ll be happy learn that it is very easy to do. A member of the allium family, garlic is related to onions, leeks and shallots and is grown from individual cloves. It is used in many recipes to enhance flavor and is reputed to reduce high blood pressure, as well as provide other health benefits. Legend has it that a necklace of garlic will ward off vampires.
Garlic leaves grow above ground but the actual bulb of garlic remains under the soil while growing. It grows well in most climates during warm weather and can easily be grown in containers all year around. There are numerous garlic varieties, the most popular of which is commonly called “elephant garlic” because the bulb is several times larger than smaller varieties.
To grow garlic, you will need individual cloves of garlic — sections of the bulb. Each of the cloves will grow one garlic plant and develop one single bulb. Each bulb will contain multiple cloves, often as many as 15 to 20. If planting outdoors, select a location which gets lots of sun and the soil is well drained.
Plant garlic cloves approximately one inch below the soil. Be sure to space the cloves about four inches apart to allow plenty of growing space. If you choose to plant rows of garlic, each row should be about 1-1/2 feet apart.
Traditionally, garlic is planted on the shortest day of the year which is the winter solstice. Planting later in the spring can produce bulbs which are smaller. There are lots of sources which recommend other times to plant garlic but many gardeners will tell you that the winter solstice is the best day to get your garlic growing well.
To determine when to harvest garlic, you simply wait for the leaves of the plant to turn brown and die. This indicates the bulbs are their maximum size but have not begun to split. Simply dig up the mature bulbs of garlic, discarding the top of the plant into your organic compost bin or your lawn debris.
After harvesting, garlic must dry to prevent rot. This process is as important as the process of growing garlic. Tie the bulbs together with string and hang them in a dry, cool location for about one week. Then the bulbs can be taken down and any dirt brushed off. Do not wash your dried garlic until you are ready to use it in a recipe.