by Joanne Washburn
12/10/2020 – Garlic’s pungent nature elevates it as an aromatic staple in the kitchen. Its strong flavor mellows down once it hits the pan or pot, infusing foods with a mild sweetness like no other.
Considered a superfood, the powerful compounds behind garlic’s assertive flavor profile can also confer some impressive health benefits, from clearer skin to better protection against certain cancers.
The good news is that garlic is one of the easiest vegetables to grow, whether outdoors in an expansive garden or indoors in pots and containers on the kitchen windowsill.
Reasons to grow garlic
So what keeps gardeners planting garlic cloves whenever the temperature starts to drop? Here are a few good reasons:
– Garlic confers health benefits – Garlic is known for its wide range of health benefits, which it owes to powerful compounds. For one, garlic can help lower the risk of heart disease. It also has antibacterial and antiviral properties for better protection against infections.
– Homegrown garlic is clean – Homegrown food is guaranteed cleaner and safer than the ones you’d find in groceries. You know what went into the soil the food was grown in, as well as whether or not the food was treated with pesticides and other harmful substances used in conventional farming.
– Garlic is low-maintenance – You don’t have to do much until the harvest once the cloves have been planted. You’ll just need to water it often and control for weeds, which shouldn’t be a problem if you use containers or raised garden beds.
– Garlic thrives in the winter – Garlic is one of the few vegetables that survive in the garden through winter, which is often too harsh for most crops.
– Few pests attack garlic plants – Garlic has an easier time than most garden crops when it comes to pests and plant diseases. In fact, garlic can be planted next to other plants to ward off their pests.
– You can plant several cloves in one plot – Small garden plots make it difficult to grow significant amounts of vegetables. But that isn’t the case with garlic, which can be sown just six inches apart on all sides. This is a much smaller space requirement than that of most vegetables.
– Garlic can be stored for a long time – Some garlic varieties are ideal for long-term storage. If you want to have a steady supply of garlic year-round, just plant the right varieties.
– Garlic plants produce edible scapes – Garlic scapes are the long shoots that some garlic varieties put out in the spring. They can steal nutrients from the bulbs themselves, so it’s important to cut them when they appear. Young scapes are edible and make for a great addition to raw salads.
How to grow garlic
Here’s a simple 2-step guide to growing garlic:
- Choosing the right garlic
You can choose from either of the following main garlic varieties:
– Hardneck – Hardneck varieties have strong and complex flavors. The bulbs themselves are large but form few cloves. Hardneck varieties are ideal for regions with colder climates. Some examples of these varieties include purple stripe, porcelain and rocambole.
– Softneck – Softneck varieties are suited for regions with milder climates. These can store for a longer time than hardneck varieties. Examples of softneck varieties include California white and silver rose.
- Planting garlic
Each clove will turn into a full bulb in about six months. Garlic cloves prefer loose, fertile soil that has few or zero weeds. You can sow garlic in the fall for a spring harvest or in winter for a summer one.
To plant garlic, insert cloves root-side down in holes at least three inches deep. Keep them at least six inches apart from each other to avoid overcrowding. Once the cloves are in, cover them with soil. Water every three days or so. Take care not to pour water into the crowns of the plants. Remove any weeds that appear.