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Grow Garlic at Home with these Tips

Date Posted: September 9, 2014

Seeds of the Month Club by Mike the Gardener Grow Garlic at Home with these Tips
photo credit: Mike the Gardener

Garlic should get added to every recipe. Ok maybe not every recipe, but fresh home grown garlic should at least be considered. I am sure you would not consider putting garlic in your ice cream, or would you? Regardless of what you do with garlic, one thing we can all agree on as home vegetable gardeners is, to grow our own.

First things first. You need some tools and supplies to grow garlic and if the weather is cooling down where you are right now, it’s the perfect time to get that garlic in the ground, so let’s get moving.

I am growing mine in a 3 foot by 3 foot raised bed located in a part of my yard that gets a full day’s worth of sun that I have easy access to, as it sits close to my back door. This year, my garlic will be following my bush beans, which were planted in this same bed over the summer. Now that bean season is over, it’s garlic time.

The tools I am incorporating into this project today are, garlic cloves, watering can, compost, mulch, trowel (or other hand tool), newspaper and a shovel of extra soil.

Before you do anything else, you need to prepare your soil. This is especially true if you are using a location to plant your garlic, like I am, where something was planted over the summer.

Start by loosening up your soil with your hand tool. This will help aerate the soil and get it ready for when we add the compost. I’ll talk about that in a moment. It also helps with removing excess debris, as shown in the photo. Discard that debris to your compost pile.

Now that your soil is nice and loose and free of all of the excess debris, twigs, dead plants etc., it is time to add in the compost. My soil at this point is very low on nutrients, and since my garlic is going to be “growing” now until next May, I need to make sure the soil has all that it needs to thrive. Adding in fresh compost is the best way to do this.

Be generous with your compost here and if you need to, go pick up a little extra certified compost at your local garden center. Using your hand tool, mix your compost into your loosened soil, very thoroughly. You only need to mix that compost in to where the roots are going to be, about three six inches below the surface.

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Now that your soil is conditioned and ready to go, add a weed blocker. I do not want my garlic competing with anything else that would want to grow there, and since we loosened the soil, chances are we might have stirred up some weed seeds which may come back to haunt us in the spring.

For my weed block I like to use newspaper. The newspaper here in NJ is printed with vegetable based inks, making them safe for my garden bed. I lay down three to six sheets on top of my soil which creates a wonderful weed blocker. Will it eliminate all of the weeds? No of course not. But you can expect better than 95% of them to be stopped. At least that is what I am experiencing when I use newspaper.

Once your newspaper is down, place your mulch on top. Normally I like to use pine needles as my mulch, but I ran out. So instead I had some mulch leftover from another landscaping job I did, so I went with it. The choice of mulch is up to you. A couple of inches are all you need.

What you want to do now is water your garden bed. I know that your garlic is not planted yet, but watering at this point does actually serve a purpose. It helps moisten your soil, and helps wet down the newspaper barrier that you laid out. The wet newspaper will be easier to rip when it comes to plant the garlic.

I do this with anything I am planting because it gives me a nice visual of where things are going to grow, making my garden bit look a bit more organized.

As you can see in the photo above, I am planting 16 cloves of garlic in this three foot by three foot bed. Some will argue that is too much and others will argue that you can plant more. My rule of thumb is to plant whatever you like, just make sure you give them some room so they can actually grow. For me, in this application, in this bed, 16 is perfect.

All of the prep work is done. It is now time to plant your garlic. Where each clove is laid out, start by moving away the mulch, just enough for the clove you are planting, tear through the newspaper to create a planting hole for your garlic.

Add some of your extra soil to the hole so that it is just about even with the mulch. Take your garlic clove and push the garlic into the soil with THE POINTED END UP. Push the clove into the soil about two to three inches then cover the soil with the mulch that you had removed from the hole.

Repeat the above steps for the number of garlic cloves that you will be planting.

Finally, water the garden bed one more time to water that extra soil you just added. This makes sure that your garlic cloves are not sitting in dry soil. Not that that will do them any harm, but you want to make sure they sprout before frost sets in.

While the weather is nice, and before frost sets in, give your garlic a light watering once a week. After winter and frost has subsided, continue watering your garlic, and start feeding your garlic, once per week with a good organic fertilizer such as compost tea.

Your garlic will be ready to harvest in 9 months. That is the normal time frame, but you can also tell, when the garlic leaves start to die off. Once you harvest your garlic, simply let it dry out in a cool, shady location (I used my garage), and you will have ready to use, fresh, home grown garlic.

Hmmm, garlic ice cream. That may not be such a bad idea after all!

Please share this article! Let`s get everyone gardening!

Mike the gardener

About the Author

Mike Podlesny is the author of the book Vegetable Gardening for the Average Person as well as the creator of the Seeds of the Month Club where members receive non gmo, heirloom variety seeds every month. You can listen to Mike each week on the Vegetable Gardening Podcast where he interviews gardening industry experts. Don`t forget to link up with Mike on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.


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