Garlic is flavorful, healthy, and so easy to grow. Here are our 5 quick tips to growing your own organic garlic right at home:
1. TIMING: Garlic is best planted 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes, which is generally the month of October in north Texas. (Read: now!)
2. SELECTION: There are ‘hardneck’ and ‘softneck’ varieties (this year, NHG has ‘softneck’ varieties in stock, but not hardneck.). As a rule of thumb: hardneck varieties peel more easily, have a hotter, more pungent flavor, and have more flavor variations. Softneck varieties are milder, but store better and are best for braiding. You can never have too much garlic; it’s like basil or parsley that way–and the green tops are edible and flavorful, too!
3. SITE & PREP: Full sun (6-8 hours), well-drained soil that’s fertile and high in organic matter. Amend with compost and expanded shale if your soil is heavy clay. Break the bulbs apart into cloves (don’t peel the skin off!) and soak them a liquid seaweed or root stimulator solution for about an hour before planting.
4. PLANT & CULTIVATE: Plant each clove with point up and root down 1-2 inches deep and about 4 inches apart. Space rows about 8 inches apart. While growing, keep the soil moist, but not wet. Fertilize every 10-14 days during active growth with a balanced organic fertilizer, such as NHG Herb & Veggie food or Hasta-Gro. Keep the area weeded, taking care to avoid damaging bulbs as they grow. Remove any flower stalks that try to form, and cover with a sheet of frost cloth during hard freezes.
5. HARVEST: Timing is important! If dug too early, the bulbs won’t store well. Wait until the green tops just begin to turn yellow and fall over as the weather warms in May into early June. Lift from the ground carefully and keep tops intact. Leave to cure for 3 weeks or so in a shady, dry location out of direct sunlight. Store in a cool, dry place and avoid warmth and light to keep bulbs from sprouting again.
As a final note, the green tops of garlic are edible, too, and are reminiscent of green onions–with a garlicky punch, of course–when snipped and added to salads and stir fries. Garlic bulbs left in the ground will tend to sprout and return for 2-4 years, providing an ongoing harvest of greens.