Whether because of the transition between seasons or a change in gardening trends, we over at The Home Depot’s Garden Club will sometimes see a run of comments all asking about the same topic. We must have a lot of foodies among our ranks, because a question we’ve seen with growing frequency as of late concerns a favorite kitchen ingredient: how to grow garlic.
Q: How do you grow your own garlic?
A: As it turns out, garlic is one of the easier edible plants to grow, making it perfect for new gardeners and easy for busy gardeners to fit into their schedule. The first step is to choose your variety. Garlic — which is a variety of allium, and thus related to the onion — can be divided into to broad varieties: softneck and hardneck. Softnecks have a more concentrated flavor, and are thus what you’re most likely to pick up at the grocers, but if you live in a cold climate you’ll want to favor hardnecks as the hardier variety.
Mid-fall is the generally the best time to start. You want the soil cool, so waiting until after the first frost is probably best. Plant the bulb in loose but fertile soil, being sure to clear the patch of weeds as thoroughly as possible. Bury each bulb several inches below the surface, and be sure to leave at least 4 inches between each bulb. The more space you leave between bulbs, the larger they can grow.
After your bulbs begin producing their first shoots, mulch with straw. If you’re growing hardneck garlic, expect them to produce long, curling stalks, called “scrapes” a month or two after planting. The scrapes can be trimmed back to encourage growth in the garlic clove. Save the scrapes, since they’re edible. Young scrapes can be used much like scallion; mature scrapes can be cooked and added to most any dish that benefits from the addition of garlic.
The garlic can be harvested when the outer leaves turn brown. Avoid bruising by loosening the soil before you pull the bulb. Don’t wait too long to harvest mature garlic, or the bulbs may split, shortening their shelf life and opening the door to one or another plant diseases. Once harvested, let the plant dry for a week or so in a warm, shady place.
We get a lot of great gardening and lawn care questions on our online Garden Club Forum. Go see for yourself, and while you’re at it, post a question or two. Your question might be featured right here on the Apron in Gardening Q&A.
And be sure to sign up for the Home Depot Garden Club. You’ll get coupons, sneak peeks at local ads, and access to our terrific projects, how-tos, and garden checklists.