When considering to grow your own garlic, your goal would be to have a good crop of it. Factors to consider are using a well prepared good soil, planting in the right place, the right depth, the right time, watering and weeding.
Location to Grow Garlic
Garlic is a sun hungry plant. Consider very well where you would grow your garlic. Always choose a spot where it will be hit by the sun all day long. You can consider partial sun, like half a day, but it will not yield as large as the one in full sun.
Seed and Variety of Garlic
High quality garlic seed are readily available from mail order sources. However, you can always use the cloves that are bought from the grocery. Professional garlic growers refer to these cloves as ‘garlic seed’. Always choose the large cloves from the outside of the head to use as your seed.
Ordering high quality ‘garlic seeds’ is just a means to know what type of garlic you are going to grow. Varieties range from hot and spicy, like the German Red, to spicy biting flavor, which is the Italian Purple, the favorite of many. Others look into the soft neck kind which is ideal for braiding. Some are easy to peel kind like the Spanish Rojo. The most popular kind, which is grown in China, is the Early Asian purple skin. China boasts of growing at least 10 million tons of garlic which is about 77% of the world’s garlic production.
Preparing Soil for Garlic
Just like with any root crop, good soil is the key to growing garlic successfully. Excellent soil is hard to come by. Thankfully there is a way of improving the soil that you are considering to plant your garlic. Throwing in the right amounts of humus or compost and well rotted manure usually does the job.
You want a soil that is high in nutrients and a consistency that is like that of a snowball. Test your soil by forming it into a ball. Then gently open it. If it yields and crumbles when you carefully press on it, this is a good soil consistency. If you can not easily form a ball with your soil, this contains too much sand. Just add more compost or humus. If you can form a ball out of your soil but does not crumble easily, just add compost or humus and sharp sand.
The soil’s pH is really important to consider also. Cheap testing kits are readily available at you local garden centers. The ideal reading should be between 6.0 and 6.8. A lower reading means your soil contains too much acid. Adding little amounts of lime does the trick. If your reading is over 7.0, your soil has too much alkaline. Adding garden sulfur and some extra compost will make it more balanced. Perfect soil is quite naturally hard to achieve. Readings near the ideal will do. Adding compost or humus always helps.
When using commercial fertilizer, always do a 10 by 10 by 10 mix. The three main components are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. This means that each comprise 10 percent of the fertilizer. Always follow the package recommendation. We all know that too much fertilizer is just as bad as none.
Planting the Garlic
If the soil is ready, you should do some digging and loosening. Make sure that the garden bed is well dug and loose up to one foot deep. The object here is to give your garlic room to grow. If you are planting in a cold climate, plant the cloves 2-4 inches deep. Otherwise, plant them at least 1 inch deep. The cloves must be planted pointed end up. Intervals of 3-5 inches, is good and at least 18 inches between rows is ideal. Garlic sprouts quickly. You will see these sprouts sometimes in as little as three days. But it does have a long way to go before these cloves become new heads.
The first three days is crucial to your newly planted cloves. Your must water them thoroughly during this period. After this, routine watering like with any other root crop can be followed. Watering them every few days, just enough to not let the soil dry out and just enough not to drown you bulbs.
When to Plant Garlic
Garlic requires cool weather during the early stage of growth. It is best to plant them during the months of October and November. This is also true in cold weather areas where winter occurs. It is best though to cover your bulbs with mulch to keep them from freezing. In tropic countries, covering it with mulch is also a practice.
The time of harvest is crucial to the quality of garlic you will get. Do not allow your garlic to flower. This takes up much energy away from the roots. If you would see signs of flowering, just break the stem to upset the activity. Garlic has its own way of telling you when to harvest. The tell tale signs that you should harvest garlic is when the stalks start to turn brown. Leaving them longer than usual in the ground during this time results in either dried out or split bulbs. In some cases, you will end up with useless ones. Use a pitch fork or a spading fork to loosen the soil when taking out your garlic. Do not pull on the stalks as breaking is very likely. Once out, brush away the dirt and dry the bulbs under the sun. If however you feel the need to use fresh garlic before the time of harvest and that you don’t mind small bulbs, you may do so. Then let the rest of your crops mature.
Garlic needs to have good air circulation. A more popular way of storing them is to form garlic braids. For bulk storage, put them inside a mesh bag and hang. The ideal storing temperature would be between 50-70 F and humidity between 50-60% range. Do not store in high humidity like insidethe refrigerator as they will try to sprout and the taste will not be suitable for any of your cooking recipes.