Sunday, October 3, 2010

How does your garden grow? Part 28: Harvesting and planting garlic.

Garlic is a member of the allium family. These include onions, shallots and leeks. The cloves are the seeds. The bulb grows underground and the leaves grow up above. Garlic is easy to grow so let's get started.

You can get your garlic bulbs from popular gardening companies like Burpee or Gurney's. Some say you can just use the kind you get from your grocery store, but I have yet to try that. Each bulb can contain up to 20 cloves depending on the variety. One clove will produce another whole bulb. What an easy way to save seeds! You can and should use your own harvested garlic cloves to plant again in the fall. After harvesting your garlic let it dry for a few weeks. The easiest way to dry garlic bulbs is to tie the leaves together, hang in a dry, cool spot to air dry. After garlic is dry gently clean off dirt and separate cloves from the bulb.

To plant garlic pick a spot where your garlic will get full sun and in well drained soil. Plant individual cloves in an upright position about 4 to 6 inches apart, one inch below the ground. Some say it is traditional to plant garlic on the shortest day of the year. In northern climates (this is all you NEWbies!) the best time is after the first hard frost. This could be anywhere from October through November. If you fear that your garlic will be damaged by too cold of a winter (usually caused by lack of snow cover) you can cover your garlic with straw or leaves.

You will know, come spring, if your garlic has grown properly if you see green shoots sprouting above ground. If not you still can try your hand at planting spring garlic. This works the exact same as fall planting, but your bulbs probably will be smaller come harvest time. Garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves turn brown and look dead. This is your heads up that the garlic is ready to come out of the ground.

This is a real easy, self-sustaining plant that I love to grow and hope you will try it out. I bet you never buy it from the store again. Enjoy!

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