By Victoria Fuller
Oh garlic, you delicious, fragrant, and overall spectacular flowering plant! Garlic makes an incredible addition to basically any savory recipe (I will not be questioned on this, I am the opposite of a vampire when it comes to garlic, put garlic on the sole of a shoe and I will eat it without hesitation) but not only does it taste incredible, it also has some pretty impressive health benefits! Garlic has been shown to be excellent at helping to boost the immune system, helps lower your risk for heart disease, helps to lower blood pressure, is packed full of antioxidants, and can help lower your cholesterol amongst many other incredible perks! So with all of this in mind, we thought we would provide some insight into how you can easily grow your own garlic at home in your raised garden bed!
So you have decided to become a garlic grower: hooray! To get started you will just have to do a little bit of preparation with your soil and then you will be well on your way! First of all you will want to decide which type of garlic you are hoping to grow, did you know that there are over 700 species in the Allium (or onion!) family, but thankfully the main decision you will have to make it whether you would prefer to grow hardneck or softneck garlic.
Hardneck varieties generally are considered to be more flavourful and are easier to peel than Softneck varieties, Hardneck varieties also tend to prefer colder climates (so perfect for those in the Northern States or Canada, or if “zones” are your jam, those in zones 7 and below!).
Softneck varieties may be less flavourful but you will also get more bang for your buck, or should we say “more cloves on your plant!”. Softneck varieties also tend to prefer warmer climates with shorter winters so this may be a better option for those in the Southern States!
Once you have chosen which variety of garlic you will be planting you will want to ensure that your soil is well-fertilized so that it makes a nice nutritious home for your plants! Garlic also requires well-drained soil so a Cedar Planter raised garden bed really would make the perfect home for them! You can buy “seed garlic” at any good garden center, but effectively you will simply be planting a clove of garlic!
You will want to plant your garlic around the time of the first frost (these little fellows certainly thrive when other plants just throw in the towel!), this gives your garlic cloves the chance to establish some sturdy roots before their leaves break above the ground (this takes around 4 weeks) so the timing is quite important!
Plant your garlic cloves 4” deep and about 4” apart with their flat sides down, it’s best to leave around 9” in between each row of garlic as well so that they have room to grow and thrive. A good idea during your planting is to dig some little trenches with these measurements in mind so all you have to do is “sow and go!”.
Once you have planted your cloves, cover the soil with a generous layer of mulch to protect the soil and your garlic from the winter chills. (We recommend cedar mulch because we are biased but any leaf mulch will do wonders in this instance!).
Garlic generally doesn’t need a lot of water (only around 1 inch per week during the growing season) and during the Winter months when the ground/soil is frozen solid you will want to cease watering altogether! You can pick up the watering can again in the Spring! You may notice some cute little shoots and leaves coming through at the end of Fall, and these will die back once the weather chills down, don’t panic! This is perfectly normal and we assure you that the shoots will reappear in the Spring!
Once it warms up and your garlic has had time to hibernate (what an adorable and cozy thought!) you will start to see your garlic shoots reaching for the sky!
Garlic is truly one of the easiest crops to cultivate as all you really have to do is ensure that they get a little bit of water every week (around 1 inch) and that’s basically it. When you mulched and fertilized your soil in the Fall you set your garlic up for success so now all you really have to do is have some patience!
Good things come to those who wait and garlic is no exception! You will notice some garlic “scrapes” start to appear at the start of Summer, “scrapes” are a long thing curly stem-like leaf that will grow alongside your leaves, I would recommend trimming these “scrapes” once they curl around themselves one time, this will tell the plant to focus its energy on nurturing the delicious garlic bulb growing beneath the soil! These “scrapes” can also be used in a variety of recipes as well as a flavourful addition, try cutting them up and adding them to your mashed potatoes!
Around 1 month after you have harvested and trimmed your “scrapes” you should be just about ready to harvest your garlic bulbs! Hooray! The best way to know that it is time to harvest is when approximately 50% of the leaves on your garlic plant have died back and are dry and brittle, this means it’s time to dig in! If you wait a little longer than intended to harvest your garlic cloves they may begin to separate, this is fine and they will still be absolutely delicious but you will want to consume these little guys first as they will likely be more prone to rotting.
In order to harvest your garlic make sure you dig around the bulb with a hand trowel instead of yanking on the delicate stem!
So there you have it! It took a while but now you have your own home-grown crop of garlic for you to eat, cure, store, and preserve! We would recommend storing your garlic in a cool and well-ventilated location (around 60 degrees Fahrenheit at around 50% humidity, if you store your garlic in a humid place like a refrigerator it may begin to sprout which means you will simply have less time to enjoy it!).
Please let us know what you plan on doing with your garlic, we are always looking for new and delicious ways to eat more of this delicious plant!