With so many outstanding attributes, it's no wonder garlic is popping up in gardens everywhere. It's easy to grow, a staple ingredient in most kitchens, provides incredible health benefits and boasts a long storage life. Gardeners are discovering what an exceptional addition it makes to their planting rotations and are making sure they plant plenty.
Interested in trying your hand at garlic? With these tips, you'll soon be growing garlic like a pro in your own garden.
1. Plant in fall
Unlike most other veggies, garlic wants to be planted in the fall just before winter hits. The best time to plant is four to six weeks before the ground freezes. This allows the new plants to develop roots and maybe even shoots, too, during the colder fall season, then be ready to take off and grow like crazy, come spring.
2. Use organic or seed garlic
Garlic is often sprayed/treated to keep it from sprouting in the grocery store or your kitchen, prolonging its shelf life. This is a downfall if you're purposely trying to get it to sprout. To make sure the garlic you plant will sprout and grow, opt for organically grown produce from the grocery store or buy seed garlic from a retailer.
3. Choose the biggest cloves
Bigger is almost always better, and that's certainly the case when planting garlic. Bigger garlic clovers will yield bigger heads when they're ready to harvest. Save the small cloves for your next recipe and plant the biggest ones you have available.
4. Appropriate plant spacing
Garlic grows best when planted in narrow furrows. The cloves should be spaced approximately four inches apart, and the pointy tips -- which should point upwards -- should be one to two inches below the soil surface.
5. Cover cloves for protection
Gently tamp the soil down on top of the garlic cloves and begin the slow waiting process that comes with most new plantings. Roots will start to form through the fall, and you will be rewarded with delicious garlic heads the following growing season. If you're in a colder climate, apply a two-to-three- inch layer of mulch on top of the garlic bed to protect plants through the worst of winter temperatures.
6. Pinch off scapes
The next spring/summer, the shoots will send up "scapes" that will turn into flowers if left on the plants. Remove them before they're allowed to bloom so as to keep resources like nutrients and water directed toward growing larger garlic heads. The flowering process pulls these resources away and will result in smaller heads. Don't throw those delicious scapes away, though! Check out bon appetit for some sensational recipes.
Toward the end of summer, the leaves will begin to dry and start turning brown. This is the time to harvest your garlic and enjoy it. Make sure to get it all harvested before the leaves die completely, and save some heads to plant next year's crop.