Garlic tastes great in just about everything—from pasta sauce to mashed potatoes. If you’ve ever taken a drive through Gilroy, California, during the garlic harvest, you may have even sampled a cup of odd (but surprisingly satisfying) garlic ice cream. Garlic, of course, is also great for your health, with essential nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, vitamin B6, and fiber. And for those reasons alone this root vegetable should always be close at hand.
If you enjoy growing own your fruits and veggies at home, you may want to consider adding garlic to your garden. It’s remarkably easy to grow—so much so that it can even be a great starter project for kids to teach them about gardening and sustainability. Best of all, the rewards are simply delicious. Read on to discover how easy it is to grow garlic at home.
Step one is pretty simple: Go out and buy some garlic. New bulbs are grown from existing cloves, so you’ll need some garlic on hand. Just so we’re clear on the terminology, the bulb is the entire vegetable and the cloves are the individual segments that you can peel off the bulb. Each individual clove is capable of growing its own new (five- to 10- clove) bulb of garlic.
When purchasing garlic for your garden, choose a fresh bulb. If you’re not sure how to pick out the healthiest bulbs, you may want to skip the supermarket and head to your local nursery. Nursery workers can be especially helpful in this regard.
The best times to plant garlic are early spring and mid-fall. Choosing a warmer or colder time of year may inhibit the growing process, so plan accordingly.
Using your fingers, carefully break the cloves from the head of the garlic. Plant your cloves in an area that’s safe from excessive water penetration (good drainage is a must), and avoid areas where garlic or anything in the onion family was recently planted. It’s actually best to use raised beds, as you need an area that’s rich with fertile, dry soil.
Situate the cloves in rows. The cloves should be at least four inches apart from one another, and the rows should be at least one foot apart. Most importantly, plant each clove with the pointed end up and the smooth end down. They should be placed about two inches below the surface of the ground or bed and then covered with fresh soil.
If the soil is dry, add a bit of water to dampen it. Then cover your soil with some sort of protective mulch—such as straw, compost, manure, or chopped leaves. In cold regions, at least four to six inches of mulch should be used. In warm regions, less mulch can be used.
Water the soil deeply once a week. When leaves start to appear, add a teaspoon of high-nitrogen fertilizer near each plant. This should be done once per season. If flower stalks appear on your leaves, then prune them. When leaves stop growing, this means that bulbs are appearing. You can harvest the garlic when most of the leaves turn brown (usually in late summer).
Up next, see how to peel garlic in less than 10 seconds.