The lowly garlic clove is neither colorful nor exotic. With its papery skin and white flesh, there is little about this bulb that says superfood. However, there are many reasons you may want to grow your own garlic.
Garlic is a tasty seasoning as well as a healthy vegetable. Crushed, its cloves can be used in soups, stews, and stir fries. The head can be roasted whole to create a rich spread for breads and crackers. Garlic can be used in dressing and as a rub for meat and poultry.
It may come as a surprise to find out that garlic has also been used for its medicinal purposes throughout history. In the past, cloves were rubbed on wounds to prevent infection. Today, it is recognized for its antiseptic properties. Scientists also believe that garlic contains antioxidants that can help to prevent cancer and strengthen the immune system.
Growing your own garlic plant is remarkably easy. All you need is a pot or patch of ground, and a clove to plant. With a little effort, you can be harvesting your own seasoning. The plants can grow up to two feet tall, and take little maintenance.
Step One: Prepare Soil for Planting
Like most bulbs, garlic prefers rich soil with lots of organic matter. It is also important to make sure that your soil drains easily so that the garlic does not sit in water. Adding compost or fertilizer to your soil will improve drainage and create rich, organic soil.
Once the soil is prepared, dig a hole about three inches deep for each clove. Garlic needs room to grow, so plan to plant your cloves about six inches apart.
Step Two: Separate and Soak Garlic Cloves
Break a bulb into individual cloves. These cloves will become the start of your new plants. A bulb should provide between 5 and 20 individual cloves, which can all be planted. Each clove naturally has a thin papery covering. Make sure that this papery skin is intact. This will help to protect your new plants.
Many gardeners soak their garlic in water and baking soda before planting to prevent fungus from forming on the clove. If you choose to do this, mix 1 quart of water with 1 tablespoon of baking soda. Soak the cloves for up to 2 hours before planting them.
Step Three: Plant Your Garlic
When planting cloves, make sure that the pointy end of each clove faces up. The leaves, or scapes, of the garlic plant will grow from this end. Cover each clove with two to three inches of soil and water well.
If you live in a cold climate, you may wish to add straw, leaves, or grass clippings as a mulch on top of the soil. Because garlic is usually planted in the fall or early winter, this layer of insulation prevents the plant from freezing.
Garlic will sprout within six weeks. Don’t worry if your plants seem to stop growing over the winter. This is normal. Most garlic stops growing in winter and will start growing again in the spring. By July, your bulbs will be ready for harvest.