Can’t decide what to grow in your garden? Why not garlic!? While garlic has many uses, it’s also easy to grow. I’ll explain how to properly plant, harvest, and cure garlic.
Before we get to planting garlic though, we’ll need the cloves. While many think to use store bought garlic cloves, that would be a poor decision. Most garlic cloves from stores have been treated with chemicals to increase their shelf life. These same chemicals also prevent the garlic from growing. It is best to use cloves from local farmers. You can get them at a farmers’ market or from other gardeners that have already grown garlic.
Once you’ve gotten your cloves, it’s time to plant them. The best time to plant would be after the first frost of fall, but before the ground has frozen. The ideal growing conditions are 2-3 inches deep with about 6 inches between them. Be sure to check that your soil pH levels are neutral to slightly acidic. While growing, you’ll want to use rotted manure to provide nutrients instead of fresh fertilizer. Add a thin layer of leaves and straw over your plots before the ground freezes over to protect the crop during the winter months. Once the ground has warmed up, the garlic bulbs will start growing flower stalks, you’ll want to remove these to increase the size of your crop.
Late summer is the best time to begin harvesting your garlic. I’ve found that yellowing leaves is the best time since waiting until they become a brownish color causes the bulbs to start falling apart. You’ll want to loosen the soil around the bulb before pulling it out by the stalk, otherwise you’ll have a stalk in your hands and a bulb in the ground (I’ve made that mistake more than once).
Now that you’ve successfully harvested your bulbs, you’ll need to store them for later use. This is done through a process referred to as curing. It involves removing unneeded moisture, toughening the outer layer of skin at the same time. An easy way to do this would be to spread the bulbs evenly over a screen to provide good air circulation. You’ll want to keep them in a shaded area out of direct sunlight. Once fully dried out, you’ll want brush the dirt off to keep in nice and tidy in storage. Do not use water to clean them off! The bulbs will absorb the moisture and you’ll have to repeat this process.
In summation, you’ll want to get your first cloves from a local farmer. After which, you’ll plant them in ideal conditions for your climate. You’ll wait until late summer once the leaves have yellowed to collect. Finally, you’ll cure your bulbs to use for later and get ready to plant for the next season.