Like garlic? Who doesn’t? Most often thought of and used as an herb or spice, did you know garlic is actually a vegetable? Garlic is a member of the onion family. Although consumed in smaller quantities, all parts of the garlic plant are edible, particularly the bulb, just like an onion, making it botanically classified as a vegetable.
Garlic has been used to season food in many parts of the world for thousands of years and has unlimited uses. Its health benefits are also numerous. The consumption of garlic:
- increases immune function
- reduces cholesterol
- lowers blood pressure
- decreases bacteria
- lessens inflammation
- diminishes bone loss
For both the culinary and health benefits, wouldn’t it be wonderful to have garlic on hand whenever you desire? You can if you grow your own!
Garlic is most often grown in the fall for a very important reason; fall planting produces larger bulbs. Planting at this time provides the cold treatment necessary for bulb development while also allowing plenty of time for the plant to set roots before winter. That being said, spring is the next best time of the year to plant garlic. Still, you must replicate that cooling period by placing garlic bulbs in a paper bag in the refrigerator for vernalization prior to planting.
Note: spring-planted garlic will produce smaller bulbs than garlic planted in the fall and is harvested later in the season. Try planting both fall- and spring-planted garlic to extend your season and to provide early spring green garlic (softneck) and garlic scapes (hardneck) for spring harvesting.
Choose organic or locally grown garlic and not grocery-store garlic. Unlike bulbs purchased for eating, organic cloves sold for growing will not have been sprayed with a growth inhibitor used to prevent garlic from sprouting in storage. When buying garlic from your local garden center, select large, firm cloves without any signs of damage, softening, or bruising to provide the healthiest crop.
There are numerous varieties of tasty garlic to grow, but only two specific types.
- Cold tolerant for Northern gardens
- Produces a central stem called a “scape” that is edible
- Fewer but larger cloves than softneck (average 5)
- Requires 10 – 12 weeks of cold treatment
- Less cold tolerant, used in Southern gardens
- No central stem: leaves may be harvested and eaten in the spring
- More but smaller cloves than hardneck (average 7)
- Required 3 – 4 weeks of cold treatment
It’s easy to grow garlic! It is resistant to both deer and rabbits and, when planted with other vegetables, makes a great companion plant. Do not, however, plant garlic alongside peas or beans, as it will stunt their growth.
To grow the best-tasting and biggest garlic bulbs, plant cloves in a full-sun location in rich, well-drained soil. The better the soil, the better the garlic. If your soil is not optimal, Master Nursery® can help. We offer conveniently bagged, premium soils, and soil amenders to prepare your garden and containers for planting. To find a retailer near you, use our Bumper Crop® store locator.
To achieve the best results when planting garlic:
- In-ground Beds
Till native soil to at least 10 inches deep, removing all rocks and debris, and evenly spread at least 3 inches of Master Nursery® Bumper Crop® Soil Builder [Eastern & Midwestern Regions | Western Region] atop the soil surface and till again; this is best done in the fall.
- Raised Beds [Eastern & Midwestern Regions Only]
Fill your raised beds with Master Nursery® Bumper Crop® Soil Builder; no other soil is needed.
- All Containers
Fill containers with Master Nursery® Bumper Crop® Potting Soil [Eastern & Midwestern Regions | Western Region]. Make sure that containers have adequate drainage holes to prevent rot.
Not sure how much soil you’ll need? Our handy Soil Calculator makes it easy to avoid over or under-estimating the amount required for your particular garden size.
Garlic does best in nutritious soil. When amending the soil in garden beds in the fall and filling containers and raised beds, incorporate Master Nursery® Bumper Crop® Tomato and Vegetable Food; this will get your garlic and all garden veggies off to a good start.
For spring-planted garlic in the ground, raised bed, or in containers:
- Plant in the spring as early as possible.
- Leave the papery skin in tack when planting.
- Space cloves at inches on center in the planting bed or container.
- Press cloves into the amended soil, inches deep, pointed side up.
- Cover with inches of soil.
- Side dress with Master Nursery® Bumper Crop® Tomato and Vegetable Food at planting time and once again one month later.
- Water garlic well after planting and fertilizing. The soil should be uniformly moist but not soggy, or the bulbs will rot.
- Adding a layer of mulch will help keep the soil moist, soil temperatures even, and reduce weeds.
Garlic Harvesting, Curing, & Storing
Spring-planted garlic will be ready to harvest in late summer when the lower leaves turn brown, and all others begin to yellow. Before harvesting, allow the soil to dry out a bit. Harvest garlic by gently loosening the soil around each bulb and lifting. Brush off all excess soil before curing.
Curing should be done out of direct sunlight in a shady spot with adequate air circulation. Spread harvested bulbs, single layer, not touching, on a drying screen for 2 to 3 weeks. Once fully cured, remove the leaves and roots with clean, sharp scissors.
Store garlic in a dry location with good ventilation at 45 – 50 degrees Fahrenheit and about 50% humidity.
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