Growing vegetables at home can be singularly rewarding in the sense that fresh, home-grown vegetables are at arm's length during harvest. It can also be much more cost-efficient than purchasing vegetables from the grocery store. Vegetables are typically grown from seed or from young plants started indoors and transplanted outside, but some vegetables, like garlic for instance, provide alternative means for starting new plants in a garden.
Garlic is a perennial plant originally native to Asia now grown throughout the world. Garlic plants can grow up to 2 feet or higher, and the bulbs of the plant are harvested for culinary and medicinal purposes. Each bulb contains between four and 20 cloves; it is the cloves that are used in numerous cuisines throughout the world.
Garlic plants reproduce by way of vegetative reproduction rather than by sexual production through the production of seeds. If you've ever left garlic out long enough to see small, green sprouts called scapes coming out of either end, you have seen garlic reproduction in action. A garlic clove planted in outside soil will quickly produce scapes that will become garlic plants. Each bulb produced from the clove scapes will have the same genetic and flavor characteristics as the planted clove.
Ideal Soil Conditions
In addition to simply planting them close, garlic growers also need to consider soil and other conditions that will have a bearing on the health of the garlic plants. Garlic should be planted in the fall because it needs early "cold treatment" to grow to full maturity. Plant the clove with the scape facing down and at a depth of about 3 to 4 inches. Successive cloves should be planted 6 to 8 inches apart. A soil pH of 6.2 to 7.0 will spur healthy garlic growth. Supplement nutrients that your soil lacks with compost or fertilizer as indicated by soil tests.
In summer months, usually July, you will notice the lower leaves on your garlic plants start to turn yellow; this is an indication that your garlic is ready to be harvested. Remove the bulbs from the soil and allow them to dry in a shady, well-ventilated area for a few weeks. After the garlic bulbs have cured, you can remove soil from the outside of the bulb and it is ready to be eaten.
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