Store bought garlic is bred for shelf life, not flavor or nutrient density. Luckily, growing nutrient dense garlic varieties takes very little time and effort. You can grow enough garlic for a whole year in just a 4’x 6’ (1.2 x 1.8 m) garden bed. Discover how to grow your own garlic, bursting with flavor and nutrients for your health and vitality. Plus, get the pro tips on how to maximize your garlic nutrition.
Garlic is an ancient remedy
Garlic is one of the world’s oldest cultivated agricultural crops and has been used for centuries to treat a vast number of diseases and ailments. From malaria and meningitis to tuberculosis and typhoid fever, garlic has been recognized as a powerful healer throughout time in cultures across the globe.
There was a time when people hoped to cure misunderstood ‘evils’ with garlic and other alliums. Today, scientific studies are confirming many of these ancient medicinal remedies. More on the allium family and some of their benefits here.
Of all the alliums, garlic single handedly wards off more ‘evils’ than any other vegetable or herb. It’s no wonder it was revered to have magical properties.
Flavors You Can’t Find at the Store: Grocery store garlic is bred for one thing: shelf life. While this is helpful for food being transported hundreds and thousands of miles, the cost of breeding for shelf life is a loss in flavor. In addition, there’s not a lot of variety at the grocery store. They carry one of three typical varieties. However, when you grow your own garlic, you can choose from over one hundred different varieties and flavors.
Health and Disease Prevention You Can’t Buy: Studies show a direct correlation between flavor and the presence of nutrients for many foods. That great garlic flavor is an indicator of more nutrients and therefore more health for you. Allicin is just one of the many active compounds in garlic that supports your health. You can read the amazing benefits of allicin here.
You don’t need to settle for less. Enjoy superior flavor and health when you grow your own garlic. Plus, it’s easier than you might think!
How To Grow Flavorful and Nutrient Dense Garlic
When inviting plants into your life, it’s important to remember that plants want to thrive. They do whatever it takes to grow strong and turn to seed for the next generation of plants. Your role as a caretaker is to provide the best conditions for your plants to flourish. Here are the eight considerations when growing garlic.
1. Growing Garlic: A Great Choice for Busy Growers
Unlike other annual garden veggies and herbs, most garlic grows from fall, through winter and all the way to summer. Growing garlic takes very little maintenance so it’s great for busy people. Once garlic is in the ground, the only thing you may need to do is mulch before temperatures freeze. Then curl up with a cup of hot tea and take the entire winter off. That’s right, nothing left to do but wait until harvest in late spring, early summer!
2. Choosing the Right Garlic for Your Climate
Hardneck and softneck varieties can be grown in colder climates, but if you live in a warmer climate, you’ll want to choose a softeneck variety. For more on choosing the right variety, grab your complimentary printable Garlic Growing Guide here.
Sow garlic at the beginning of your cool season. Hardnecks need the first four to six weeks of growing to be between 32-55°F (0-12°C). Softneck and warmer tolerant garlic varieties can be planted in warmer temps, but need to be below 80°F (23°C) for the duration of their growth.
Garlic sprouts should be at least 6-8” (15-20cm) tall before temperatures drop below freezing. When sprouts are at least 6” tall, mulch the garlic bed with a light material, like organic straw to protect it through the winter. You can also use mulch to keep the soil cooler in warmer climates.
3. Your Garlic Plants Want 6-8 Hours of Sunlight
Without proper sunlight, your garlic plants cannot photosynthesize properly. Because sunlight hours change through seasons, you’ll want to make sure that wherever you plant your garlic it is getting 6-8 hours of full sun from fall through summer and up until harvest time.
4. Quality Soil Means Nutrient-Rich Food
Health starts underground. If growing in a container, choose a high quality, organic potting mix. If growing in soil, ensure it is well draining with plenty of fertility. Keep your fertility levels up by adding a 2” layer minimum of organic compost on the top of your potting mix or soil each growing season.
5. How Many Garlic Plants in How Much Space?
You don’t need a lot of growing space for garlic. You can grow enough garlic to savor year round in one 4’ x 6’ (1.2 x 1.8 m) garden bed. And that one garden bed can give you much more of that cherished garlic flavor beyond the bulbs.
Before your garlic head fully matures, grab an early harvest with hardneck varieties. Hardnecks produce edible shoots on the top of the plant called ‘scapes.’ Simply cut the scapes when they are between 6-10” (15-20cm) long and enjoy them raw or cooked. They make a delectable addition to sautees!
6. Watering for Perfect Garlic Harvests
When you first plant your garlic, water 1” (3cm) per week until leaves emerge. Then, reduce watering. No need to water once temperatures go below freezing.
When the ground thaws, water 1” per week in temperatures of 60-70°F (15-21°C) and 2” per week in temperatures of 70-80°F (21-26°C).
PRO TIP: Watering less often and more thoroughly is best.
7. Harvesting and The Secret to Getting Superior Garlic Harvests
Harvesting garlic is easy! Your garlic is ready for harvest when lower leaves turn brown and papery. Using a digging fork, gently insert the digging fork into the soil and lift the garlic heads from soil.
But you don’t have to wait until the garlic is mature to start harvesting. Aside from the scapes of hardneck varieties, you can enjoy delicious fresh spring garlic by harvesting before maturity and cooking immediately.
Important Tip When Growing Garlic: The secret to getting superior garlic harvests is to save the largest, healthiest bulbs for planting next year.
8. Curing and Storing Your Garlic
Once you’ve harvested your garlic, gently brush off the excess dirt. Never wash harvested garlic or get the bulbs wet as this can cause your garlic to mold. Hang your garlic or lay on a wire rack out of sunlight for 2-4 weeks in temperatures of at least 80ºF (26ºC). In colder climates, curing can be done indoors.
Once cured, cut the stems off and peel the very outer layer of skin off the bulbs. Store in a ventilated, dark, dry area at 60ºF (15ºC). When garlic is cured properly, it will store for anywhere between 4-12 months, depending on whether you’re growing the hardneck or softneck variety.
For everything you need to know about garlic varieties and growing, grab your own complimentary Grow Your Own Garlic Cheat Sheet in printable format here.