Growing Garlic: How to grow garlic 101

How to grow garlic at home

I fell in love growing garlic on my hobby farm! I love garlic and I use it in every dish I can. Growing garlic is one of the easiest plants to grow in your garden. It is like a plant and forget crop just like growing potatoes.

Garlic bulb

What is a garlic bulb? Garlic bulbs are made up of 3-10 individual cloves inside forming a new bulb.  Each set or garlic bulb is made up of several individual seeds called cloves, held together by a thin, papery covering outer skin. Break open the bulb to separating each of the cloves. Each clove placed into the earth will multiply again in the ground forming a new whole bulb repeating the process. If you plant 5 garlic cloves this year at harvest time you will have 5 garlic bulbs. If you replant all of those cloves, the following year you will have 25 garlic bulbs.

What are garlic sets?

Garlic sets are the individual seeds inside the garlic bulb. Each garlic bulb can contain up to 3-10 individual cloves inside forming a new Garlic bulb

When storing garlic during the winter, check the stored garlic bulbs often any that show signs of sprouting. The garlic that shows signs of sprouting can be replanted as soon as the ground has thawed. These will produce more garlic bulbs in your garden. They may be a little smaller than garlic planted the previous winter.

When to plant garlic

Check your area for the first frost period. Where I live, I start my garlic beds around the mid of October. Loosen up the ground in your garden where you want to plant your garlic. The soil will need to be loose and deep enough for you to push your hand down to your last knuckles. 3″-4″ deep.

How to plant garlic in the fall

Plant cloves in Fall in a area that will receive full sun with good soil amendments and well-drained soil. Set cloves root side down pointed side up 4 to 6″ apart in rows 1-1/2 to 2′ apart. Cover with 1-2″ of fine soil after all the sets are in. Up in the Northern areas, put down 6″ of mulch for winter protection. 

Cloves can be held with your four fingers and thumb, pushing root side down until you reach the top of your knuckles. Or a hole can be made with a dowel to the correct depth, then placing the clove in each premade hole.

Note: Seeds will need to have a few weeks to establish roots before the ground freezes. Best to plant is 3 – 6 weeks before the winter freeze, which usually comes to Vermont in mid-November. I live above Vermont and  plant my garlic around October 15 each year.

How long does it take for garlic to mature?

Garlic matues in around 90 days.

Garlic growing rule!

Never plant garlic in the same bed the following year. Previous Garlic beds should be used for other crops for the next two years. After the first season it will take two years for any pest or fungi issues that are harmful to your garlic plants to die of or move on. (never break this rule) You could lose your entire crop.

What is a garlic scape?

Garlic scapes are the unopened flowers and neck that will appear as the garlic plants begin to mature. The stalks will form in a circle formation, as the garlic come to maturity the curled stalk will unravel and straighten pointing straight up into the air with the flower now on top.

If the flower is left on the garlic plant it will open full of garlic seeds. These seeds will turn into a flowering head.

When to harvest garlic scapes?

Garlic Scapes can be harvested after the center stalk is completely formed and starts to grow upwards. I usually wait until the flower begins the unravelling process. Garlic plants provides use with two edible harvest from each plant. We grow the garlic to eat the cloves inside the bulb. If the garlic scapes are harvest it will send more nutrients back down to the bulb increasing the size of the garlic heads. Plus, garlic scapes are edible and delicious. The garlic scapes taste just like garlic and are one month earlier than the garlic bulb will be ready. The Scapes make amazing garlic pesto!

How to store garlic scapes

Storing garlic scapes inside plastic bag in the fridge for two to three weeks. Keep them fresh for a few days by placing them in a glass of water. They will be ready to use when preparing meals. Use them like you would when using garlic bulbs. Change the water daily.

What part of garlic scapes do you eat

What part of garlic scapes do you eat? The entire garlic scape is edible. They can be sauteed with other vegetables or used as pestos. Discard the flower bulb at the end.

When to Harvest Garlic

Two methods to know when your garlic is ready for harvesting. First method is when the lower leaves start to turn brown. Second method I use is, Leave a few flowers heads on your garlic sporadically throughout your garlic rows. When the flowers point straight up and before they begin to open, that tell me it is time to pull a few garlic plants up to see their progress. If the garlic cloves are fill out, it’s time to harvest. 

When I harvest my garlic I pull each one out of the ground and shake off the excess soil. I prepare a bucket with water to dip the garlic bulbs in to remove all the soil from the bulb and roots. Garden hose can be used as well to rinse the bulbs off. Then one layer is removed by pulling down on one leaf exposing a nice white coating.

At this time, I inspect the stalk and bulbs for any root damage or small holes. Small holes are from a small bug that drills inside to lay its eggs. I set any bulbs showing issues to the side away from my main stock that will be sold or stored. Any stocks or bulbs with bug issues should be removed from your area not to re-contaminate the area. Burned if possible. Do not put them in your compost pin!

How to cure garlic

how to dry garlic bulbs

Cure garlic by leave the stalks and roots on the bulbs. If you plan to growing a lot of garlic bundle them in 8 to 10 garlic plants together, tie with twine, and hang bulb side hanging down in a cool, out of direct sun with good airflow. Garlic stalks can be dried by laying them on their sides in single file, flat on a raised structure that provide adequate air flow. Allow the bulbs to cure for three to four weeks

Harvesting Garlic Seed

Harvesting garlic seeds is accomplished by leaving the garlic scapes on some or all of the garlic plants. when the flowers start to become round and have not yet open harvest your garlic crop. During the curing process the flower will dry. After the flowers have dried they will start to open revealing little pink seeds. These seeds can be planted over the winter. They will produce thin green leaves that almost look like grass. So, remember where you plant them.

letting them grow for 2 to 3 years will provide you with an new strain of garlic seeds to increase your growing garlic numbers

How do I start a garlic farm?

The easiest way to start a garlic farm is over time. If you plan on selling large amounts of garlic you have to start small and double every year. If you buy 100 garlic bulbs you have 500 garlic plants the first year. The second year will that same 500 plants will provide you with 2500 plants and so on.

How much money can you make growing garlic?

On average garlic bulbs can be sold Approx. 6-12 bulbs per pound and sold for $5 to $10 per pound.

Is it too late to plant garlic in April?

Simple answer, No April is not too late to plant garlic. The bulbs will be harvested later and may produce smaller bulbs than normal. Best if they can be placed in the ground as soon as the ground is unfrozen for best results..

Garlic scape pesto

  • 10 large garlic scapes
  • 1/3 cup unsalted pistachios
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound spaghetti

Please check out my blog post on making pesto from Garlic scapes How to make pesto sauce with or without pine nuts here.

#garlic #growinggarlic #hobbyfarm

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