Saturday, March 29

Growing Your Own Garlic

Growing, Harvesting and Storing Garlic
It’s the end of March and I have the worst case of cabin fever I have ever experienced. We've had an unusually hard long winter here in Ohio, and all across the Midwest, with temperatures remaining well below freezing and even well below zero for long extended periods of time, ugh.  Usually our snow melts after a few days, but not this year. 
Gardening and seed catalogs are arriving in my mailbox nearly every week.  But most days, it’s almost too cold to walk down the lane to the mail box!
I am already planning the lay out of the vegetable garden and what I need to plant, one of which is garlic. We love garlic and I use it in many recipes and dishes.

About Garlic:
Garlic is in the onion genus, Allium.  Its relatives include onion, shallots, leeks, chives and rakkyo, all of which I like.  Humans have been using garlic for over 7,000 years.  Garlic is native to Asia, but it was also known to the Ancient Egyptians.  Garlic has been used for 1000’s of years for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

Choosing Garlic:
It is best to not plant cloves of garlic from the grocery store. They may be unsuited varieties for your area, and most are treated to make their shelf life longer, making them harder to grow. Instead, get cloves from an organic mail order seed company or a local organic nursery.
Hardnecks type garlic do best where winters are cold, spring is damp and cool, and summer is dry and warm.
Wherever winters are moderate, softnecks are the easiest to grow.

Soil should have lots of organic matter and drainage
Planting Garlic:
Nearly all garlic is grown by planting individual cloves in the ground.  In areas that get a hard frost or in colder climates, (I’m in Ohio) garlic cloves should be planted in the fall, usually in late September or October or about six weeks before the soil freezes. 
In southern warmer climates, February or March is a better time to plant garlic.

But if you missed the fall planting, (which I have done a time or two, including last fall), Garlic can also be planted in the Spring as soon as the soil can be worked.  Yes, planting in the fall will produce larger more flavorful bulbs, but spring planting is perfectly good too!

Your soil should have lots of organic matter and good drainage.  Plant garlic in a sunny spot.  Make sure to pick the largest heads to divide and plant.
Plant cloves about 4 inches apart, 2 inches deep and in an upright position with root end facing down.

In spring as temps begin to warm up, shoots will emerge through the soil.
Water every 3 to 5 days during bulbing or between May and June.
Garlic can easily be grown in a patio container as long as it has sufficient depth and drainage.
In colder northern areas make sure to mulch garlic with straw over the winter months, and then remove the mulch in the spring.

Garlic is usually very hardy and is not attacked by many pests or diseases and is said to repel rabbits and moles in your garden. 
It’s a natural pest repellent!

Garlic bloom
Harvest time depends on when you plant, but generally harvest when the tops begin to yellow and fall over and before they are completely dry.
In Northern climates, harvesting will probably be in July or August. I harvest my garlic in late July to August here in Ohio
In Southern climates, it will depend on your planting date.
Check the bulb size and wrapper quality; you don't want the wrapper to disintegrate. Dig too early and the bulb will be immature.
To harvest, carefully dig a little around the bulb with a spade or garden fork. Gently pull up on the plants and carefully brush off any dirt. 

Tie garlic in a bunch to dry
First clean the garlic by removing the dirty outer garlic wrapper and trim the plant leaves, being careful not to cut too much of the skin off protecting the cloves.   The papery outer layer protects the garlic and keeps it fresh and moist.

You can spread garlic bulbs out on a sheet or tray to dry.  Drying needs to be done in a cool, dry space with good ventilation.
Hanging garlic in an open shed with good air flow works great too.  I use the same method to dry my herbs and flowers.
Let the garlic dry for a few weeks, then once dried trim off the roots to about a half inch from the bulb.  The garlic can be left hanging to store it or can be cleaned and stored in mesh bags.
Bulbs should be stored in a cool, dark, dry place, and can be kept for several months. Do Not store in a damp basement!

Remember, ventilation is most important. 
The flavor of the garlic will increase as the bulbs are dried.

Don’t forget while harvesting, set aside the larger, nicer garlic bulbs to replant for next year’s crop. 

Benefits of Garlic

Cancer Prevention
Preliminary studies suggest that garlic consumption may reduce the risk of developing several types of cancer, especially cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.  Most of the studies evaluated different types of garlic preparations and used them in varying amounts. 

Vitamins & Nutrients
Garlic is packed with vitamins and nutrients.  Some of these are protein, potassium, vitamin A, B, B2, C, Calcium and Zinc.

Blood Pressure
Garlic helps regulate the body's blood pressure.  Garlic also lowers block cholesterol levels.

Immune Booster
In a 12 week study, allicin powder was found to reduce the incidence of the common cold by over 50%

Heart Disease
Garlic protects the heart and is also known to thin the blood.  The amount of garlic you need to get the heart healthy benefit is about a clove a day.

Natural Antibiotic
Garlic is a natural antibiotic.  the active component in garlic is allicin.  Allicin is quite powerful as an antibiotic, it's said that 1 milligram of allicin has a potency of 15 standard units of penicillin.

Mosquito Repellent
In a field study in India, a repellent made of 1% garlic oil, petroleum jelly and beeswax prevented mosquito bites for up to eight hours.

"Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. 
Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. 
Soy sauce makes it Chinese; but garlic makes it good." 
- Alice May Brock

"Garlic used as it should be used is the soul, the divine essence, of cookery. 
The cook who can employ it successfully will be found to possess the delicacy of perception, 
the accuracy of judgment, and the dexterity of hand which go to the formation of a great artist." 
- Mrs. W. G. Waters


Staci at Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Such a wonderful post full of great tips!! I adore garlic, particularly roasted garlic. :)

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

Staci: Thanks! Oh yea, roasted is fantastic!

Anonymous said...

Hey! Do you use Twitter? I'd like to follow you if that would be OK. I'm absolutely enjoying your blog and look forward to new posts.

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

I did have a Twitter account but just got away from it. But uou can follow me on my farm Facebook page. Scroll up and look in the right hand column for the link to Lynch's Mt. Horb Farm.

Anonymous said...

Nice post and good info on garlic and how to grow it. But I hesitate a lot and never seem to get anything done or planted! Kristen

Elizabeth Ohiothoughts said...

I have lists and a notebook with things I want to get done. As I do them I check them off. The list is endless! But I too have forgotten to plant the garlic in the fall and paid the price for it by next summer when there was none to use fresh out of the garden, ugh

Anonymous said...

Hurrah, this is what I was for, thanks for the garlic information!