Fresh garlic is a staple in many kitchens and good cooks know that a hint of garlic can enhance many dishes. The pungent bulbs are incredibly easy to grow and homegrown garlic tastes far better and keeps longer than what is sold in the supermarket.
Fall is the best time to plant garlic. Garlic cloves should be planted in well-drained soil from about the time of the first frost up until November. It is harvested in the summer after the bottom half of the leaves have begun to turn brown.
To plant garlic, break apart the bulbs into individual cloves. To grow larger garlic bulbs, plant only the largest cloves. Plant the cloves about two inches deep and four to six inches apart in rich soil. The roots will start to grow over winter, but you won’t see any top growth until spring. Give your garlic a blanket of mulch to protect the bulbs from heaving out of the soil over winter and to help keep down weeds.
Young garlic can be mistaken for grass when it begins to sprout, but a quick pinch of the leaves will release their aroma and eliminate any mistakes when weeding the patch.
There are many varieties of garlic available to choose from, but two main types; soft neck and hard neck. The soft neck varieties have a soft stem that makes them easy to braid. Soft neck garlic bulbs have larger cloves on their outside layer with smaller cloves towards the center of the bulb and generally stores well, up to nine months.
Hard neck garlic has a stiff central stalk with fewer but larger cloves. It tends to be more winter hardy than soft neck varieties but doesn’t store as well, typically only five to six months. Hard neck garlic is a bit easier to peel than the soft neck varieties.
If you enjoy garlic, try planting some this fall. You’ll be glad you did!