Everyone knows fresh garlic is the best garlic. And nothing beats eating the fruits of your own labor. Garlic isn’t just easy to grow, it can also be planted in both the spring and the fall. Better yet, it can be grown indoors or out. So put your green thumb to the test and try your hand — ‘er, thumb — at growing one of the most useful little plants on the planet!
Garlic is one of the most common ingredients we use. It’s spicy when raw, mellowing to sweetness as it roasts, making it a great ingredient for a multitude of dishes from a variety of cultures and regions. In fact, garlic is such a common ingredient, why not grow it at home rather than pick it up at the supermarket week after week? Follow these easy tips to grow your own garlic… in your kitchen or in your backyard.
Planting the Cloves
The part of the garlic you plant is called the clove — the individual pods that exist when you tear away the paper-like wrapper. Garlic grows best when planted in the fall or spring, but can grow anywhere, depending on the conditions, especially if you’re growing your garlic inside.
If you’ll be planting outside, choose a sunny spot. There’s no need to segregate garlic from most plants and flowers, though you should check online before planting. It works well with most other flora.
If you’re planting your garlic inside, choose a large planting pot deep enough to hold enough soil to plant the cloves at least 3 inches down and wide enough to plant them 4 to 6 inches apart (depending on how many plants you want in one pot). Make sure the pot drains well and can be easily placed in a sunny window or outside for 8 hours of sunlight a day (or use an indoor gardening light).
Though you can plant cloves of garlic from heads purchased at the supermarket, consider purchasing them from a gardening supply store for best results, as those you find in the market may be treated. Plant the largest cloves you have pointy-side-up about 3 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches apart.
Caring for Your Plant
If you’ve planted your garlic in a well-draining pot, you’re halfway home. Garlic is a very hearty plant. Just make sure you water it regularly. How often depends on how hot an environment it is and what type of soil you used. Basically, you should water them often enough to keep the soil from feeling dry to the touch.
The garlic plants should also get plenty of sunlight. If they’re indoors, take them out for a sun during the day when it’s nice or use an indoor gardening light to ensure they get just the right UV exposure.
Clipping the Topscapes
Eventually, your garlic plant will begin to grow thin shoots that start to curl. These are called topscapes. Most people believe these should be cut off as soon as they appear to allow the plant to collect more energy for growing, though others say you should leave them to allow for better storing as they dry and wither.
Feel free to experiment, especially if you grow multiple plants, but keep in mind that the topscapes are just as edible as the garlic itself, so if you cut them off, you’ll be able to use them in food, much like garlic chives.
Take a look at: How to Cut and Trim an Artichoke?
Harvesting & Your Crop
About 8 to 10 months after you plant them, the garlic will be ready to harvest (when the lower leaves begin to turn brown). Pull one head out to test it. You’ll know it’s done by cutting it in half. The cloves will fill out the skins. Just be careful — they should be dug out, not pulled out.
When the bulbs are harvested, brush off any remaining soil and allow them to dry for 3 to 4 weeks in a dry, shady spot outside. Once dried, cut off the tops and roots. You can store the garlic for around 6 to 8 months (sometimes longer) at a temperature of between 60 and 65 degrees F with moderate humidity and a least a little air circulation.