From the earliest times garlic has been used as a food. Garlic has been used as both food and medicine in many cultures for thousands of years, dating as far back as the time that the Egyptian pyramids were built. Here you can see that garlic can be used ornamentally as well
The leaves, stems(scape) and flowers(bulbils) on the head(spathe) are also edible and most often consumed while immature and still tender.
You can grow your own garlic and now is the time to get started. Garlic can be grown in spring as well, but to get the biggest and best bulbs the plant needs the winter time to set its' root system and begin to set its' bulb as well.
- Plant from October 1st through November 1st or anytime right after the first killing frost.
- Leave the outer skin on the bulbs and do not separate cloves from the bulbs until you are ready to plant.
- Plant cloves root end down, 4 to 6 inches apart in rows.
- Cover with 2 to 4 inches of soil. The best soil offers good drainage and ample organic matter. Be sure to prepare the area by working the soil with a garden fork and add some quality compost. Consider adding worm castings and some organic fertilizer that will supply balanced nutrients (e.g. 10-10-10). By applying the organic fertilizer in the fall the nutrients will be available in the spring when the garlic begins actively growing.
- Keep weeds under control. You can facilitate this by mulching with a quality mulching material. Garlic does not do well in competition with weeds.
- Once the growing season begins in the spring make sure the developing garlic has ample water while growing, but let the ground dry out a few weeks before harvest.
- Harvest when the tops start to die and fall over (usually in midsummer).
- When harvesting, shake the dirt off. Clip the roots and tops, leaving an inch of stem above the bulb, then place on screens to dry for four to six weeks. Obviously, if you want to do garlic braids such as those in the picture above, then you would want to leave the tops intact. If you can, find a screen to lay the garlic on which would allow the leaves to hang down straight.
Garlic is easy to grow and doesn't have a lot of problematic diseases or pests. As a matter of fact it is a great companion to grow to help protect the plants around it.
Organic gardeners know that diversity in the garden creates a healthy and beautiful environment. It's also believed that certain plants help enhance the growing environment for other plants. Garlic is one of these plants and is often paired up with roses, as garlic is said to ward off pests that attack roses.
Garlic is a great choice for fall planting.
Happy gardening, organically...
Mother Earth's Farm