If you eat a lot of garlic like my family does, then my #1 recommendation is to plant and grow your own patch of garlic. Nothing is better that your own homegrown garlic. especially garlic that you know where it was grown and how it was grown. The flavor of your own garlic is not even comparable to any garlic that you can purchase from a grocery store.
In my post, Preserving Garlic: How to make Garlic Powder, I talk about my reasons why we have chosen to grow all of our own garlic.
Did you know that most of the garlic that is available in the united states is from china and other countries?
This was a driving factor for my family to grow our own. I am going to dive right in to the specifics of growing your own garlic and the limited amount of tools that you need.
Recommended soil for a productive garlic crop
When deciding on where you want to plant your garlic, you want to think about a nice spot that gets a fair amount of sun. Think about a place that will not be in the way of your summer gardens that you will plant in the spring. Garlic is a time investment, you plant in the fall and harvest mid summer. You want to make sure it is not in the way.
There are 2 options for where you will plant your garlic: Directly in the soil or in raised beds.
HOw to pLant garlic directly in soil:
If you are planting in a larger area you will want to use a rototiller to till in the grass and break up the ground. Depending on the size of your bed, you can break up the grass without a rototiller. But it will be time consuming and a lot of work. After your ground is nice and broken up, you are ready to test your soil and add the necessary amendments.
How to plant garlic in raised beds:
If you are building a raised bed make sure you are not using treated wood. You do not want chemicals to leach into your food. Add your preferred dirt and you are ready to test your soil. If you are not sure where the best place to purchase dirt or the amount you will need, contact your local garden center. They will be your best resource and will be more than willing to work with you.
Testing and amendments
After you have chosen the perfect location, broken up your soil or filled your raised bed, next you want to test your soil, Garlic prefers a pH balance between 6.5 to 7. You can get simple soil testing kits from your local farm and garden store. They are only a few dollars and they give you a better idea of the health of your soil in regards to your plants. Depending on what your test says, add the corresponding amendments. Your local garden store is the best place to ask questions and they will help you get the correct amendments.
where to purchase your garlic cloves
I order my garlic cloves online as I have not found what I need locally, in the quantities I need. And, I always recommend shopping local first if possible. It is important to find companies that you can trust. So, the two I trust for most of my seeds are Baker Creek and Territorial. Both of these companies I have great luck with their seeds and bulbs and have no complaints.
This year, with it being 2020 and the craziness that has been happening, I was unable to purchase my normal amount of garlic online. They were all sold out. One day I was at a neighbor’s farm stand and she had garlic cloves for sale. This means that I will not be planting my 20ft x 30ft bed this year. I was able to plant a 4ft x 5ft bed. Which might be enough for just our family, but I will not be able to sell any in our farm stand. But, I am happy that I was able to get my hands on the little amount that I did find.
REsearch companies that you can trust
I recommend doing some of your own research and find a few companies that you can trust. Look at what the company stands for and what they believe in. Is non-GMO or heirloom important to you? Do they support other companies that have similar standards that you have? Try to find a few companies that are more local to you also. I do buy my flower seeds from 2 different small farms that are about 45 minutes away from my home. I consider that pretty local to us. Find out what is important to you and stand by those beliefs and find companies that fit into your standards.
How to plant Garlic
Once I have my garlic cloves on hand and my soil is prepared, it is time to plant. When I plant my garlic, I like to space them out 6 inches apart. This gives them ample room to grow and I will not run into overcrowding issues.
I then take a small handheld garden trowel and dig a straight line from the top of my bed to the bottom. I was always taught to plant north to south, so all of my gardens are planted this way. Once the line is dug, I layout my cloves with the correct spacing. As you place the garlic in the hole, always have the garlic pointed side up. Continue throughout the entire bed. After you have laid out all of your cloves, then cover them up with dirt. You want to be careful not to plant too deep. You want the cloves to be no deeper than 3 inches. I usually plant around 1.5 to 2 inches and they are always fine.
Preparing for winter
Once all your garlic cloves are planted and covered with the right amount of soil, I like to cover mine with 2 to 3 inches of straw. If you do use straw, you want to make sure that it has not been sprayed with any herbicide. I have never had it happen, but I have heard of other homesteaders who have had their garden beds ruined by herbicide in the straw they use. The reason you want to add straw or some sort of mulch, is because you want your garlic to be protected from the cold. It also helps keep the weeds down in the Spring and Summer.
If you have chickens like I do and they have access to your garden, make sure to put up some sort of fencing. When I was done planting the garlic, I walked away to get some fencing. Less than a minute later, I had 2 chickens digging in my freshly planted garlic bed!
And that is it. Now you just have to wait until mid summer to harvest.