How to Grow Garlic
Garlic has been used in food preparation and for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. Throughout history, garlic has been widely used in Asia and Europe. The Latin name for garlic is Allium Sativum. Garlic is a member of the Amaryllidaceae family, which also includes shallots, leeks and onions. The garlic plant is a perennial and the comsumable part of the plant is the bulb that grows underground. The bulb of garlic is composed of smaller bulbs known as cloves.
Fresh garlic is known for its pungent scent and flavor. The flavor and scent are released when the cloves of garlic are broken. The release of the scent and flavor actually a chemical reaction that is caused by breaking the cells of garlic.
Garlic for Your Health
Garlic is believed to have medicinal properties and is used in the treatment of many afflictions and illnesses. Garlic is known to have antioxidant properties and it is good for the immune system and heart. Garlic also stimulates blood circulation. Studies also show that garlic reduces levels of “bad” cholesterol. Garlic also contains germanium, which is a known anti-cancer agent. In addition, garlic is known to increase the production of bile to reduce fat levels in the liver.
As a rule, you will plant garlic in the Fall and harvest in the Spring. When purchasing garlic bulbs to grow in your own herb garden, do not use the bulbs that you can purchase at the local supermarket. These bulbs are grown for commercial consumption and are not the best to use for planting. Instead, purchase garlic bulbs from a gardening store. There are hundreds of varieties of the garlic plant. However, all varieties of garlic may be categorized into one of two general types: Hard neck or soft neck.
One pound of planting garlic will produce between five and seven pound of garlic for harvest. Hard neck garlic varieties will peel easier than the soft neck varieties. However, soft neck varieties will last in storage longer than the hard neck varieties.
Grow Garlic Outside
You can grow garlic outside, even if you live in an area with cold winters. Grow hard neck garlic if you live in an area where winters bring freezing temperature. If you live in a region that enjoys warm winters, grow soft neck garlic. The hard neck garlic plant has a shorter life span than soft neck varieties, which tends to be the perfect choice for colder climates.
Prepare the Area
Garlic should be grown in a raised bed of soil. Simply designate an area of approximately three ft. by three ft. in the garden and spread some additional enriched planting soil on the top in this square. Rake the newly laid soil to create the raised bed. Spread 5-10-5 fertilizer or composted manure over the raised bed area.
If you live in a region with freezing winters, plant hard neck garlic after the first frost but prior to ground freeze. The garlic will develop roots during the winter. Ideally, the plant will develop strong roots before developing shoots. For warmer climates, plant soft neck varieties around the first of November. However, you can plant as late as Christmas in the southern regions.
If you purchased heads of garlic for planting, carefully separate out each clove. Plant one clove about two inches deep, six inches apart in the raised bed. Water each planted clove generously and then cover each clove with mulch. A good rule of thumb is to cover each planted clove with three inches of mulch. The mulch acts as insulation to keep the ground moist and warm in the northern regions and cooler in the South.
Allow the garlic to grow over the winter months. The mulch should eliminate weeds, but if a few weeds grow, pull them out. In the early Spring, you should begin to see shoots sprouting up out of the ground. Fertilize the raised bed once again when you being to see shoots. Make sure that the plants receive plenty of water, particularly if the Spring is a dry one.
For hard neck plants, a single seed (“scapes”) will appear as the shoot sprouts out of the ground and curls. Cut this seed off when it forms to yield larger cloves. In the northern regions, the garlic will be ready for harvest in late June or July. When the lower leaves on the plant begin to turn brown, the plant is ready to be harvested. Soft neck garlic in southern regions will be ready for harvest in April.
How To Harvest Garlic
To harvest the garlic, dig up the bulb. Store the bulb in a dry place that is well ventilated to allow the bulb to cure. The bulbs will cure in about four to six weeks.