How To Grow Garlic

It is pretty normal to find me in my garden.  It is my favorite place in the world.  It’s my happy place.  BUT, it’s January.  January in Kentucky is usually icy, frozen and miserable.  In January I am usually on the couch in front of the fire holding a seed catalog.

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This weekend we had a wonderful little exception to the traditional, frozen January.  It reached spring-like temperatures here in the past 5 days.  It doesn’t take much to convince me to work play in my garden.  If it’s 55 degrees out, I don’t care if it’s January, I’ll be in the garden if you need me.

I’m going to plant some garlic.  I plant it every year.  We use a lot of garlic. I cook with it.   I use it when I am canning (salsa, tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, chutney).  If a recipe calls for 2 cloves of garlic, I’ll add 8.  I always put it in my bone-broths.  We even use garlic as medicine around here.  If someone is under the weather – garlic to the rescue.

Garlic is a natural antibiotic.  What is remarkable about Garlic as a medicinal herb is that it will kill a bacterial infection as well as a viral one.  It is common for someone in this house to eat (raw) cloves of garlic if they are getting a scratchy throat, runny nose, or other ailment.  You may smell like an Italian restaurant, but you’ll be better in the morning.

Garlic is one of the easiest plants to grow.  It is pretty much impossible to kill.  At least, I haven’t killed any yet, and I am an experienced plant killer.

I have never had my garlic suffer from diseases, and there are no pests, especially in winter and spring, that bother it.  Garlic doesn’t require much space.  It also will give you a great return on your investment:  one clove will mature into a nice bulb containing 8-10 cloves.

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Garlic is easy to store and will keep braided in my basement all year (maybe longer, but I wouldn’t know because we ate it all).

Growing garlic takes patience.  You can’t just decide in the spring that you want to grow garlic.  It takes about 8 months to turn a small, garlic clove into a large, beautiful bulb.  Even more impressive is that garlic thrives and will yield it’s best results if it is planted in the fall before the ground freezes.

I usually get my garlic in the ground sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It didn’t happen this year, so when the January heat-wave hit, I headed to the garden, garlic in hand. 

I buy my garlic seed from the grocery.  This only works if it is organic, american grown, garlic- sold at a real-food-store.  Garlic sold at a grocery that is not a “whole-food” type grocer will be treated with a chemical to prevent it from sprouting.  They don’t want sprouting garlic on the grocery shelves.  Since I DO want sprouting garlic, I buy it from the health-food-store.

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6 Large bulbs of garlic for $3.49.

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Out to the garden to plant.  First, bust the bulb apart with the heel of your hand, or a shovel, or whatever blunt object happens to be close.  Pick the largest cloves for planting.  Toss the small ones to the chickens.  This will ensure you have nice, large, garlic bulbs to harvest in the summer.  DSC03820

Plant 1 clove in each hole.  You want it to be in the ground with the pointy tip facing the sky.

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Pointy tip-up, flat end – down.

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I plant my garlic about 3-4 inches below ground.

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Space the holes 6-8 inches apart.   You can plant them closer together, but you may have smaller bulbs.

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Done.  This entire bed is planted with garlic seeds (cloves).

When you choose where to plant your garlic, keep in mind that it will most likely be there, occupying the space, until the end of June. Garlic doesn’t get too tall (so it won’t shade surrounding beds). It looks a lot like onions when it’s growing.  Long thin stalks coming out of the ground reaching 24 inches tall.

In early summer I’ll trim the garlic tops (the seed heads) to make the bulbs grow larger.  This directs the plant to focus it’s energy on bigger bulbs (under ground) instead of taller green leaves (the top).  When the tops start to turn brown and fall over it’s time to harvest the garlic.  Then comes the drying, curing, and braiding.  Oh Boy!  I can’t wait til spring!

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You can always be sure, if you see a picture of me, there is a short photographer behind the camera…….

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who will inevitably, eventually take a selfie.  Nice.

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