Growing Garlic: Not Suitable For First Dates

July 12, 2013 | By | More


growing garlic

Garlic…good and good for you!

When I was a kid, my mother used to tell me how much I was like my dad.  When they were still married, I think she meant this affectionately.  After their divorce, this observation was not always complimentary.  One of the ways I take after my dad, and I’m really throwing him under the bus right now, is that when I eat even a small amount of garlic, I smell like it for two days.  This goes beyond having garlic breath.  It comes out of my pores.  If I’ve had a lot, I can smell it on my pillowcase in the morning.

Imagine how embarrassing this was to me as a young adult, knowing that if I was out with friends having pizza, I’d need to steer clear of everyone the next day at school, and maybe even the day after that.  I imagined myself walking down the halls at school, books clutched against my totally flat chest, holding my breath to avoid exhaling, and still having the popular kids sniggering behind my back as I scuttled by in a cloud of garlic-scented fog.  I chewed gum and ate Certs like crazy.  I avoided garlic as much as possible until I was probably in my mid-20s, which is about when I stopped caring.

growing garlic

Just getting started!

Why did I stop caring?  Maybe because I had so many failed first dates, even though garlic breath was not to blame or maybe it’s because Facebook and allowed me to socialize without having to worry about fresh breath.  Then, I met my husband.  Rob has a cute smile, beautiful thick eyelashes, a sweet (but not too sweet) nature, a great sense of humor, and…a bad sniffer.  He can’t smell anything really, and he’s my perfect match.  We happily eat plenty of garlic, and with most recipes, I’ll even add an extra clove for good measure.

Although I’d gotten into gardening, growing garlic had not occured to me.  At least not until a childhood friend with whom I’d reconnected via Facebook proudly displayed photos of the garlic she’d harvested.  The garlic was grown for decades by her late grandfather and handed down to her – a real heirloom.  I e-mailed some questions about the hows and whens of growing garlic and not only did she give me hints for success, she sent me a head of this potent, magical garlic.

I anxiously planted the six cloves of the garlic last fall, hoping for the best.  I could have written this post then, at planting time, or earlier in the spring when the shoots re-emerged.  But, I’m writing it now, after my harvest, to inspire you to get ready for planting garlic this Fall.

Growing Garlic

1.  Garlic is best planted 4-6 weeks prior the the first frost in your area.  This gives the roots time to get going before the plant goes dormant in winter.

2.  Carefully separate a head of garlic into individual cloves.  Select the largest cloves for planting and, with pointed end up, insert the clove about two inches deep into good, loose soil.  I plant garlic in soil that’s been ammended with compost and mixed or tilled well.  The heads will form most successfully in loose soil with high levels of organic matter.  You can grow garlic in a traditional row garden, raised beds, or even pots.  Space the cloves about 4 inches apart.

I grew this freshly harvested garlic in a pot this year

I grew this freshly harvested garlic in a pot this year

3.  Smooth the soil gently over top of the cloves and water thoroughly.  Over the next few weeks, you may see the sprouts appearing, and that’s fine.  Just before frost, roughly chop some dried fall leaves and use them to mulch the garlic.  Last winter, I put about 2-3 inches of shredded leaves on top of the pot.  The garlic will go dormant and continue growing in the spring.

4.  Once early spring arrives, and the shoots have emerged, fertilize them with a mix of fish emulsion and sea kelp fertilizer.  Fertilize once more about a month later, probably in May.  After that, water regularly or when the soil feels dry when you stick a finger in about an inch deep.

Harvesting Garlic

Growing garlic is a “high value” endeavor because it’s easy and you get little rewards well before hitting pay dirt with the bulbs.  For example, when the greens are looking robust in the spring, try trimming the ends back just a bit, chopping the greens, and adding them to a salad for a wonderful, mild garlic kick.

growing garlic

Garlic scapes

A few weeks later, the plants will send up garlic scapes – mysterious, long, curly thangs with a flower bulb at the end.  Cutting these off at the base will encourage the plant to put its last bit of energy into producing a nice head of garlic below the soil’s surface.  Chop the garlic scapes and add them to a spring vegetable stir fry.  Or, if you dare, make garlic scape pesto.  It’s so addictively tasty, you won’t want to leave home unless you’re allowed to bring the bowl and a spoon with you.  And, that would just be weird.

Finally, around mid- to late June, the leaves will begin to turn brown.  Don’t worry, this is supposed to happen.  Stop watering and wait until the bottom 3-5 leaves are brown and dry.  The garlic is ready to harvest.  Get a garden fork, gently stick it deep into the soil about two inches away from the central stalk and carefully loosen and lift the bulbs from the soil.

growing garlic

When the leaves look like this, the garlic is ready for harvest



You can either enjoy the garlic right away by trimming the roots and stalks and brushing away the soil or you can “cure” or dry the heads for later use and planting.  To cure, simply place the entire plant on a rack to ensure good ventilation all around the heads in a cool, dry place away from direct light.  I am drying mine currently keno in our basement.  After about a week, you can trim the stalks and roots.  Your garlic will keep for several months this way.




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Category: General, Home and Garden, Kitchen Garden

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  1. Mommy says:

    This is a really cute article…yes, you are just like your father in that regard…Too bad, so sad!

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