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Thinking of growing garlic in your garden? You, my friend, are a person after my own heart. Here’s everything you need to know about how to grow garlic.
What is Garlic?
To start, in case you’re not already familiar with the plant, here’s some basic information! Part of the Allium genus, garlic is a type of flowering bulbous plant. Botanically it is considered a vegetable, and it’s closely related to other plants like shallots, onions, leeks, chives, Welsh onions, and Chinese onions.
The taste of garlic depends on whether or not it’s been cooked. Raw garlic tends to have an extremely pungent and borderline spicy flavor. When it’s cooked, the flavor mellows out and takes on nutty and delicious notes.
For this reason, the unique and somewhat mustard-like flavor profile is utilized in a wide variety of dishes from cultures all around the world.
Health Benefits of Garlic
In my house, garlic is a staple for so many meals. Not only does it add a wonderful flavor to recipes, but it’s a healthy superfood.
It’s packed with vitamins C, B6, manganese, and selenium as well as a good source of antioxidants (I’m looking at you, allicin!).
To top it all off, since it is so flavorful, garlic can be used in place of salt (or at least enable you to cut down on your salt intake), which is a big part of keeping your blood pressure at a healthy level.
Plus it’s low-calorie so adding it to your meals won’t do much to increase your caloric intake.
Why Grow Your Own Garlic?
When it comes to garlic, there’s not much we haven’t tried. I personally love the mellow taste and aroma it produces when you roast it in the oven.
You can roast it, grill it and add it to almost everything you cook (we especially love adding roasted garlic to our roast beef and potatoes – yum!). Check out all the great ways to cook with garlic!
We slice it up very thin and use just a bit in fresh salads where it adds a wonderful zing! We pretty much eat it in some form. Every. Single. Day.
But you don’t have to go as big as we did – you can grow garlic in your backyard for your own personal use. It’s super easy! And if you use garlic as much as we do, think about the money you’ll save by avoiding supermarkets!
Plus, it’s extremely convenient to grow your own, and there are a numbers of ways you can store and preserve garlic so you’ll have fresh, home-grown garlic to use and enjoy all year long.
There’s a large selection of varieties of garlic you can plant. There are 3 main types of garlic variety: softneck garlic, hardneck garlic, and elephant garlic.
Softneck varieties are what you’ll typically find in grocery stores, and hardneck varieties produce scapes that can be used for a number of things (see part 2 to the guide).
The hardneck type is typically what I like to plant, but softneck types are also good options!
Elephant garlic is a completely different type of garlic that yields large bulbs and, unlike true garlic, is more closely related to leeks.
How to Grow Garlic – A 4 Part Series
If you’re curious about growing garlic in your backyard, I want to invite you to check out the 4-part series I wrote.
It will teach you everything you need to know about growing garlic, how to grow garlic from a clove, how to plant it, harvest it, dry it, and store garlic.
If you’re a complete novice at growing garlic, you should start with part 1. Otherwise, you can skip to whichever part fits your needs best.
Garlic is so easy to grow and it takes up hardly any room at all. It can be grown in a garden, a flowerbed, a container on your deck–anywhere that gets full sun.
Anywhere you have a spare 6 inches of soil to dig, you can plant, grow and harvest a head of garlic. So make this year the year you start to grow it instead of buying garlic!
Growing Garlic (Planting and Spacing Garlic) – Part 1
In Growing Garlic – Part 1, you’ll learn:
- How much space you need to plant garlic cloves (spoiler: not much!)
- That garlic is grown anywhere from early fall, like September and October, or in the early spring, depending on the climate you live in
- How to prepare the soil and plant garlic bulbs in a raised bed (e.g. adding compost, manure, or fertilizer, layers of mulch or straw, etc.)
- How far apart you should plant your individual cloves
- Avoiding pests and promoting weed control
- What to expect as your garlic plants grow
- What to do to get nice, big garlic heads
- My recipe for Bacon-Wrapped Garlic Bites (because…yum!)
Ready to get started? Read Growing Garlic – Part 1.
What to do with Garlic Scapes – Part 2
In Growing Garlic – Part 2, you’ll learn how to deal with garlic scapes. These stalks need to be removed starting in June and July, so here’s how to use all those delicious garlic scapes you’ll end up with.
Every year we make Pickled Garlic Scapes! When canned safely and properly, you can keep them on hand for years! They are great in a Caesar, Bloody Mary or this Cranberry Vodka Spritzer as a garnish.
The stem, or garlic scape, is also great for:
- Grilled meats
- Pesto sauce
- Veggie trays
- Potato salad
- Tuna salad
- Cheese and crackers
- Serving with other veggies like tomatoes and beans
Start pickling with Growing Garlic – Part 2.
Harvesting and Curing Garlic – Part 3
Growing Garlic – Part 3 will teach you how to harvest garlic and provides tips for storage. In it you’ll learn:
- How to tell when garlic is ready to harvest (once leaves turn yellow)
- The easiest way to get dirt off your garlic plantings
- How to bundle and hang your bulbs
- Preventing bacteria from spreading to other bulbs
- How long to hang your bulbs up to dry
- How to get your bed ready for replanting
Learn about harvest in Growing Garlic – Part 3.
Sorting Garlic for Eating and Planting- Part 4
Last, but not least, in Growing Garlic – Part 4, you’ll learn:
- How to sort through your garlic cloves
- Choosing which bulbs you will eat
- How to choose which bulbs you will replant in your garden
- My recipe for Bacon-Wrapped Garlic Bites (seriously, they are soooo good!!)
Learn how to keep your garlic garden flourishing in Growing Garlic – Part 4.
Learning more about how to grow garlic: Part 2
Growing Other Plants:
If you enjoy planting and harvesting your own garlic, there are a number of other plants that are similarly easy to grow! Onion, shallots, and chives are all great options if you’re looking to expand your garden further.
Want to find out which are The 5 Easiest Vegetables to Grow?
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originally published 2020; latest updated Sept 2022