Looking back at how and when I started growing garlic I can honestly say it was quite by accident. I had some cloves and I don’t recall what prompted me to plant them but I did. I will venture to say it was the wrong time of the year because I remember they died down and I forgot about them leaving them in the ground until the next year. They sent up sprouts the next year and I left them to grow and decided to do some research on growing garlic. I found that they should be planted in the fall (October) and harvested 9 months later when the leaves start to turn brown and fall down. The middle of July arrived and I dug up a few and was amazed that I had full heads of garlic! I never realized they needed such a long period in the ground!
Garlic is pretty simple to grow since it is a light feeder and its basic needs are full sun and rich soil. The garlic head should remain intact until you are ready to plant – then you break apart the head into individual garlic cloves planting 2-3” deep with the pointy end of the clove in the upward position.
Space the cloves or bulbs 4” apart in all directions and top with mulch.
There are two basic kinds of garlic – softneck and hardneck. Hardneck garlics have a “hard” stalk in the middle, they are more difficult to grow and more perishable, but they have a wider range of flavors.
They also have larger cloves and are easier to peel. Softneck have a longer shelf life and this is the garlic usually used for braiding since the stalks are softer. You can see the different varieties I have in the ground this year here.
Fresh garlic has the best flavor in the first few months after harvest. Designer or gourmet garlic is more expensive than store bought since there is a lot more character and flavor. Garlic tastes may vary from variety to variety and even a single clove may taste different from person to person – same as with fine wine. When growing your own garlic, harvest and hang to dry for 2-3 weeks before using. Then store in cool, dark place and do not refrigerate or freeze.
It is said that garlic repels Japanese beetles and many other pests so you can plant around roses or other flowers that suffer from Japanese beetles. You can also mix up a garlic spray as an insect repellent. Chop a few cloves, add to a quart of water (mixing in a blender works well). Let sit for several hours and then strain the mixture through cheesecloth.
A few tips on cooking with garlic – Mincing or chopping garlic into fine pieces produces a bright and lively flavor. If you smash the garlic before cutting, the flavor will be stronger. Using a garlic press will produce a very strong flavor so use when looking for a dramatic garlic taste in your recipe. Pressed and grated garlic is much stronger than chopped or minced.
Cook garlic slowly on the stove over low heat – do not burn – burnt garlic is bitter. You can use garlic many ways – raw, sautéed, dry roasted or oven roasted.
Experiment in the garden and in the kitchen with garlic!
You will simply fall in love with fresh grown garlic from your very own garden!