How to Grow Garlic at Home

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Fragrant, delicious garlic is one of the world’s favorite seasonings. Americans eat about 2.6 pounds of garlic per capita per year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. You don’t have to be a big Gilroy farmer to grow it yourself. Garlic is easy to grow at home, and makes an attractive border for all kinds of gardens.

Things You'll Need

  • Whole head of garlic
  • Shovel
  • Time-release fertilizer
  • Sand (optional)
  • Plant garlic in mid-October through November. In Eastern Europe, it is traditional to plant garlic on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

  • Most bulbs, including garlic, grow better in sandy, well drained soil. If your soil is heavy and water tends to pool in it rather than drain, try adding sand or consider growing your garlic in a large, well drained pot instead. Choose a sunny location.

  • Select one or two heads of garlic from your favorite grocery store. Check for soft spots and stains on the peel to make sure your garlic isn’t rotting. Remove the excess papery peel from the head and break it into individual cloves. Don’t peel the cloves. You’ll probably have 10 to 20 cloves.

  • Using your shovel, turn over the soil in the area where you want to plant your garlic. If the soil is heavy and wet, now is the time to add sand. Also add a handful of general time-release fertilizer. Mix well. Smooth the soil. Push your finger into the soil to the second knuckle--about 1 ½ inches. Drop in a clove; the pointed end should be facing up and the root end down. Cover it with soil. Repeat about 4 inches apart with the next clove. After all the cloves are planted, press the soil firmly down and water lightly.

  • Six to eight months after you plant your garlic, you’ll see that the stems are beginning to turn brown and die. In warm, dry areas, allow them to dry in the soil before digging the bulbs out. In rainy areas, take the bulbs out of the ground earlier to prevent rot. Dig up the bulbs carefully with a shovel.

  • Wash the bulbs and store them in a cool, dark, dry place. They will keep for several months. Some varieties of garlic can be braided or made into wreaths.

Tips & Warnings

  • Elephant garlic, that giant tasty bulb that is so delicious when roasted, is not really garlic. It is a variety of leek. Its culture is similar to garlic. Try growing some.
  • Too much sun can be bad for your skin. Wear appropriate clothing and safety gear when gardening outside. Always wear gloves when handling chemical fertilizers.
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