Garlic: Easy to Grow, Delicious & Healthy

Garlic is one of those neglected crops. More gardeners should grow it. It’s super easy and it’s super hardy. The greatest challenge I face with it, is that I get busy and it dies down when I’m not looking. Then, I have to hunt around to find the heads, which are underground.

Garlic is one of those neglected crops.

In most of this country garlic is harvested around the middle of July. I often get busy and miss harvesting until the papery skin over the heads has decomposed. Still, the cloves are good. In fact, I’m pretty sure I could leave it in the ground and dig it as I needed it, as we generally only have a week or two, per year when the ground is so frozen that it’s difficult to that I’ve accumulated a number of varieties, over the years and they’ve gotten mixed. Except for two or three, I’m often just guessing which variety I’m using. Oh well, they are ALL GOOD!

Source: Francis Storr/Flickr
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The way one grows garlic is by breaking cloves from a head (the head is the bulb, which is composed of sections called cloves) and planting the cloves. I generally plant the cloves about 4” deep and about 8” apart. Most folk try to plant their garlic in October, several weeks before temperatures become really cool. This gives the cloves time to sprout and actually take root before cold weather hits, yet, they are not likely to grow too much and get set back by freezing weather, when their tops get frozen. A light mulch over the newly planted cloves is helpful.

Garlic is very resilient.

Having said that, I’ve planted garlic any time I have had cloves on hand, and it’s done pretty well. If I planted cloves in August, for instance, they’d just sit in the ground until moist conditions return. Regardless of when I plant, volunteers come up all over the garden. I try not to weed it out, as it produces a delicious, useful crop. I have planted garlic as late as February and gotten a decent crop. Frankly, garlic is not very picky.

Garlic plants are not very picky.

If you forget to harvest the bulbs, it will simply sprout again in the spring. This crop will probably produce smaller heads and cloves, due to crowding, but they’ll still be good! It is so resilient that, sometimes it is found naturalized on old homesteads, where all the human structures have long ago decomposed and disappeared. The heads may not be that large, but they’re tasty and useful; and, if one breaks them up and plants the cloves with some space between them, they increase in size, attaining their original size within two growing seasons.

garlic, garlic plant
Garlic Plant in Spring
Source Renée Johnson/Flickr

It has many health benefits. We knew missionaries who ate a raw clove of garlic every day, for health reasons. Apparently it worked. I mainly love garlic for its flavor!

Sandhill Preservation Center: Garlic

Do you grow garlic? If you don’t, now is the time to find abundant, economical garlic in farmers’ markets. Why not get some? You could stock up for winter and get enough to plant your own too. Some kinds of garlic will store for almost a year if kept in a somewhat humid environment at about 60-65 F. We don’t have those conditions. Yet, we have plenty of last year’s crop on our kitchen counter and, I need to be digging the 2018 crop! Extra garlic is a snap to dehydrate and can be frozen or pickled.

Southern Exposure Seed Exchange: Garlic

Related article: Hardneck Garlic’s Little Known Advantage


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