One of those ingredients that is practically always used in everyday cooking is garlic. This adaptable crop may be grown in beds and containers, making it ideal for gardens of all sizes. Garlic should definitely win the prize for the best garden crop.
It is easy to cultivate, delicious, and space-efficient. All you need to do is plant the appropriate type in the appropriate soil at the appropriate time. After that, just harvest when the time is right and properly preserve the product, and you’re good to go.
Choosing Types of Garlic
Numerous types of garlic can be found in specialized catalogs, but for all practical reasons, the distinction between softneck and hardneck is the most significant.
The reason softnecks are so named is that the entire green plant withers away, leaving only the bulb and flexible stems that are simple to braid. Hardnecks feature a stiff stem in the center that ends in a lovely bloom, or cluster of tiny bulbs, before drying out to become a rigid stick that prevents braiding.
The simplest ones to cultivate in moderate climates are softnecks, which are the common ones you can find in supermarkets. They are less resilient than hardnecks and produce smaller, more potent cloves, but they keep longer. Since they are more prone to splitting — or just refusing to grow — in warm climates, hardnecks thrive where there is a real winter.
Most of the United States’ gardeners have access to both, but based on your preferences and climate, specialized dealers will provide you with the best options. Purchasing seed stock from your neighborhood farmer’s market is another smart move. Wherever you are, whatever that garlic is, is the one they are growing.
Plant garlic bulbs in loose, fertile soil that is as weed-free as possible in the middle of the fall. Cloves should be inserted root-side down, 8 inches apart in all directions, with the tips buried about 2 inches deep. You should mulch the emerging green shoots with straw. Draw the mulch over the entire bed once a harsh freeze has killed the shoots.
When the new shoots start to appear in the spring, remove the mulch. Give them a shot of liquid seaweed and mixed fish emulsion. Be sure to weed them. Never apply water to the plant crowns; only water if the soil is dry two or more inches below the surface.
Garlic Care Instructions
Little maintenance is required for garlic to grow. When the foliage begins to turn yellow, which indicates that the bulbs are maturing, water more frequently throughout the spring and early summer.
To limit competition for water and nutrients, weed between the plants. The best way to accomplish this is by hand because hoeing could harm the budding bulbs. If the plants produce blooms or “scapes,” remove them and use them in stir-fries. They’ll be great!
Depending on your climate zone and the weather during the growing season, garlic varieties are categorized as early, midseason, and late. They move faster in the heat and slower in the cold. Although the harvest window is vast if you intend to eat the garlic right away, it is limited if you want to maximize the life of the garlic in storage.
When the majority of the lower leaves have turned brown, the bulbs are ready. The higher ones will continue to appear green. “Lifting the bulbs” is a useful metaphor for garlic harvesting since those heads are softer than they appear to be.
When the tie comes, choose a day cloudy with dry soil, lift the heads out of the row and place them in a flat carrier after loosening the dirt with a digging fork.
Let the entire plants dry in one layer away from the sun, where the temperature is warm but not stifling. When the skin is papery on the outside, remove as much dirt as you can and cut the roots. If you’re braiding garlic stems, you should move quickly through this. Waiting until they are entirely dry usually results in them breaking and cracking.
When compared to anything commercial, the finished garlic will still appear unclean. Leave it as is since any additional cleanup could reduce the storage life. But you can remove the wrapper’s outer layer if you find it intolerable how it looks otherwise.
A temperature of between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, a reasonable humidity level, and excellent air circulation are ideal. They must also be out of direct sunlight. Keeping your garlic in a closet that is insulated but not heated is a great idea. Those with less fortunate storage options should stay away from the refrigerator since excessive cold can cause sprouting. Also, avoid plastic bags since they can cause the garlic to rot.
Garlic is one of the easiest produce to grow and one of the tastiest as well. Simply follow the steps above, and you’ll enjoy your own homegrown garlic all year round.