How to plant and harvest your own garlic.
Why grow your own garlic? Simple: it makes you feel good. And feeling good about something this easy has at least as many health benefits as eating this delicious bulb.
If you can buy your own garlic, chances are you can grow it, too. I use store- bought garlic to start my crop. All you need is a little outdoor space and a container. If you have a garden, even better.
The traditional time to plant garlic is fall (October is best) to harvest the following spring. For spring planting, plant your cloves after the last frost date predicted.
Choose a couple of nice firm heads from an organic source and separate all the cloves. The idea is that each clove will form a new head, given three months or so. The more you plant the more you harvest, of course, so if you have the space, stock up.
I use a zinc bath about twelve inches deep for my garlic crop and then place it in full sun. Any well-drained, very sunny spot will work well. Space the cloves about five inches from each other and plant an inch deep. Water well and wait.
The first green sprouts will emerge after a week.
At this point, if you are greedy (like me), you can snip some of the green shoots to add to omelets and vinaigrettes. Bear in mind that the leaves produce food to feed the developing bulbs, so keep the snipping to a few plants.
Water your garlic only when dry. Feel the soil to figure this out: Light and dusty to half an inch down — that’s dry. Dark and damp on the surface — it does not need water. One soaking or less a day should do it, though plants in containers dry out faster than in-ground.
By May — assuming you planted in late March or early April — your garlic should have shot up to about nine inches tall and when you pull on the leaves you will feel a decided resistance. That bulb is growing. Exciting. Another two months of warm weather will see the garlic underground mature and then I pull one up to see what’s been happening. The bulbs have started to separate and are ready to eat. You can either wait a few more weeks for separate cloves to form, or pull them up now and store for eating.
There is something very satisfying about peeling that first garlic and seeing the perfectly white, fragrant bulb emerge. I turn the first few heads into an ajo blanco — an almond and garlic -based cold soup, brightened by green grapes. After that, I’ll put a few cloves in a roast chicken or blend them with walnuts and lemon juice to make a paste for bread or crackers…the list is endless.
Happy planting and bon appétit!