Garlic is a branch of the onion family, garlic’s prevalence in food, culture, and medicine is undeniable. Its unique taste and rare properties make garlic a versatile and useful plant to millions around the globe. The plant’s cloves, specifically, are most valued for their strong flavor by consumers. But contrary to popular belief, its other parts (the leaves, stem, and flowers) are also very edible. In this article we will learn how to grow garlic from cloves.
Garlic’s history, despite the plant’s wide usage, is not all that well known. Though it has been grown for thousands of years, there is no clear ancestor to the garlic consumers know and love today. Wild species of garlic have been found, though. One species, called Allium longicuspus, grows wild in the Southwestern areas of Asia. Another, known by the nicknames “crow garlic” and “field garlic” can be found in the meadows of Britain. And to round out its pervasiveness across the continents, a third species of wild garlic grows in North America.
As evinced by how common garlic is in its wild form, the plant is very hardy and easy to grow. It is usually planted seed by seed, asexually, and does very well in any mild climate. The fields of China are home to the world’s largest garlic production industry. The country grows about 77% of garlic cultivated worldwide.
In fact, China produces about 28 billion pounds of it annually. India, South Korea, Egypt, Russia, and the United States round out the list of the top garlic industries in the world. Together, they grow almost two million tons per year. Garlic’s strength as a plant for cultivation lies in its resistance to most pests and diseases. Additionally, it doesn’t require great soil to thrive. Just about any reasonable pH balance suits garlic fine.
The only real threats to garlic plants are a non-fatal plant disease called “pink root” that stunts its growth and parasitic nematodes (roundworms). Farmers also find garlic useful to grow because it naturally tends to repel common field pests such as rabbits and moles.
How to Grow Garlic from Cloves?
When considering to grow your own garlic, your goal would be to have a good crop of it. Factors to consider are using a well prepared good soil, planting in the right place, the right depth, the right time, watering and weeding.
Garlic is a sun hungry plant. Consider very well where you would grow your garlic. Always choose a spot where it will be hit by the sun all day long. You can consider partial sun, like half a day, but it will not yield as large as the one in full sun.
Seed and Variety
High quality garlic seed are readily available from mail order sources. However, you can always use the cloves that are bought from the grocery. Professional garlic growers refer to these cloves as ‘garlic seed’. Always choose the large cloves from the outside of the head to use as your seed.
Ordering high quality ‘garlic seeds’ is just a means to know what type of garlic you are going to grow. Varieties range from hot and spicy, like the German Red, to spicy biting flavor, which is the Italian Purple, the favorite of many. Others look into the soft neck kind which is ideal for braiding. Some are easy to peel kind like the Spanish Rojo. The most popular kind, which is grown in China, is the Early Asian purple skin. China boasts of growing at least 10 million tons of garlic which is about 77% of the world’s garlic production.
Just like with any root crop, good soil is the key to growing garlic successfully. Excellent soil is hard to come by. Thankfully there is a way of improving the soil that you are considering to plant your garlic. Throwing in the right amounts of humus or compost and well rotted manure usually does the job.
You want a soil that is high in nutrients and a consistency that is like that of a snowball. Test your soil by forming it into a ball. Then gently open it. If it yields and crumbles when you carefully press on it, this is a good soil consistency. If you can not easily form a ball with your soil, this contains too much sand. Just add more compost or humus. If you can form a ball out of your soil but does not crumble easily, just add compost or humus and sharp sand.
When using commercial fertilizer, always do a 10 by 10 by 10 mix. The three main components are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. This means that each comprise 10 percent of the fertilizer. Always follow the package recommendation. We all know that too much fertilizer is just as bad as none.
How to Plant Garlic?
If the soil is ready, you should do some digging and loosening. Make sure that the garden bed is well dug and loose up to one foot deep. The object here is to give your garlic room to grow. If you are planting in a cold climate, plant the cloves 2-4 inches deep. Otherwise, plant them at least 1 inch deep. The cloves must be planted pointed end up. Intervals of 3-5 inches, is good and at least 18 inches between rows is ideal. Garlic sprouts quickly. You will see these sprouts sometimes in as little as three days. But it does have a long way to go before these cloves become new heads.
The first three days is crucial to your newly planted cloves. Your must water them thoroughly during this period. After this, routine watering like with any other root crop can be followed. Watering them every few days, just enough to not let the soil dry out and just enough not to drown you bulbs.
When to plant
Garlic requires cool weather during the early stage of growth. It is best to plant them during the months of October and November. This is also true in cold weather areas where winter occurs. It is best though to cover your bulbs with mulch to keep them from freezing. In tropic countries, covering it with mulch is also a practice.
The time of harvest is crucial to the quality of garlic you will get. Do not allow your garlic to flower. This takes up much energy away from the roots. If you would see signs of flowering, just break the stem to upset the activity. Garlic has its own way of telling you when to harvest. The tell tale signs that you should harvest garlic is when the stalks start to turn brown. Leaving them longer than usual in the ground during this time results in either dried out or split bulbs. In some cases, you will end up with useless ones. Use a pitch fork or a spading fork to loosen the soil when taking out your garlic. Do not pull on the stalks as breaking is very likely. Once out, brush away the dirt and dry the bulbs under the sun. If however you feel the need to use fresh garlic before the time of harvest and that you don’t mind small bulbs, you may do so. Then let the rest of your crops mature.
Garlic needs to have good air circulation. A more popular way of storing them is to form garlic braids. For bulk storage, put them inside a mesh bag and hang. The ideal storing temperature would be between 50-70 F and humidity between 50-60% range. Do not store in high humidity like inside the refrigerator as they will try to sprout and the taste will not be suitable for any of your cooking recipes.