Gardening with Scott: Growing Your Own GarlicArticle posted in: Lifestyle
Growing garlic is easy and fun. It’s a superhero of healthy eating that amps up the flavor of all kinds of foods, transforming ordinary ingredients into zesty dishes. Garlic also delivers a potent supply of nutrients, including a unique compound called “allicin,” which has been shown to help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels and even ward off colds.
Best of all, garlic is a Free food on Nutrisystem, which means you can enjoy as much as you want without slowing progress toward your weight loss goal.
You’ll also discover that unlike supermarket cloves, which sit for months before they’re bought, freshly harvested garlic is exceptionally flavorful and even juicy. You don’t need a lot of space—or any—to harvest a supply of garlic you can use to spice up your flex meals. You can plant garlic in a garden bed or grow it in a pot. Just keep in mind that autumn is the right time to start a garlic crop.
Here’s everything else you need to know about growing garlic yourself:
Garlic, a member of the lily family (it’s sometimes called the “stinking lily”), grows a lot like flowering bulbs such as daffodils and tulips. All of these bulb need time to chill before they start their growth, so they’re planted in fall and they come up in spring. While traditionalists say that Columbus Day is the ideal time to plant garlic, you can put your crop in the ground or a pot anytime until the soil freezes hard.
Growing garlic is best in full sun and loose soil that drains well, so it doesn’t stay soggy after it rains. If you plan to grow it in a pot, fill it with half potting mix and half compost.
This year’s garlic grows from last year’s—that is, you plant garlic cloves and each of them forms into a whole new bulb. Softneck-type garlic is the kind you see in grocery stores. It’s well adapted to the climate in California, where garlic is grown commercially. Hardneck varieties fare better in most other regions. The best place to buy garlic for planting is at a local farmer’s market, where you can be sure the variety is suited to your climate. You can also order garlic to plant from online nurseries.
With your fingers, gently separate each of the cloves from the bulb. In a hole that’s about three times the length of the clove, put the flat (root) side down and the pointy (shoot) end up. Space the cloves about six inches apart so they have enough room to become big bulbs for you to harvest. Moisten but don’t soak the soil. Spread a layer of grass clippings or straw on top of the soil as mulch.
Depending on when you plant and where you live, you may see green shoots coming up before winter. As the temperatures drop, the plants stop growing. They start again after warm weather returns in spring. If you’ve planted in pots, move them to a protected location, like an unheated garage, through the winter months, then take them outside in early spring. In the ground or in pots, water the garlic when the soil feels dry down to your second knuckle. Pull any weeds that grow up around your garlic shoots.
As spring begins turning to summer, the tall greens begin to yellow and wilt. That’s the time to gently dig up the bulbs, taking care not to cut into them with a shovel. Brush (don’t wash) the soil off them and leave them in a cool, dry place for a week to cure. Clip off any leaves still attached and store your bulbs away from direct sunlight until you’re ready to eat them.
Growing garlic the following year starts with the first year’s harvest. Set aside one or two of your best bulbs to use to plant for next year’s crop.