Growing garlic is super easy, and takes very little skill or input. Garlic is what is considered a cash crop for many people. Growing garlic is a low-effort way to make a little money on the side in your own backyard.
Generic commercial garlic at our supermarket sells for $28/kg. Organic, locally grown garlic at the farmers market sells for $2-3/bulb.
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Garlic’s requirements are modest – some well-rotted manure or compost, free draining soil, some mulch to keep down the weeds and some 5 – 8 months to mature.
Growing garlic only takes up 4 square inches of space per plant, and there are very few diseases that affect it. Last week in our weekly gardening series I said we would plant it this week – that motivated me to get it in the ground!
The Benefits of Growing Garlic
Garlic is one of the earliest documented plants grown for medical and health purposes.
Egypt, Greece, China, Rome and India all have ancient texts prescribing garlic to treat a range of ailments.
Today many natural health followers swear by the use of garlic to treat a range of problems. These include treating colds, coughs, acne, cold sores, fungal infections and as a general wellness tonic.
Studies have found garlic reduces the length of a cold by up to 70% and reduces the likely hood that you will get a cold by up to 60%.
In our house we love eating garlic with pretty much every dinner, maybe that is why my family is so healthy?
Garlic also keeps away pests in the garden, making them great companion plants.
What is the Difference Between Hard Neck and Soft Neck Garlic?
Hard Neck Garlic (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon)
- Smaller bulbs, often with only 4-6 larger cloves per bulb.
- Grows a central flower stalk in spring time – great if you like to use garlic scapes.
- A hardier variety, better for shorter growing seasons and cooler regions.
- Stronger in flavour.
- There are nine subtypes: purple stripe, marbled purple stripe, Asiatic, glazed purple stripe, Creole, Middle Eastern, turban, rocambole and porcelain.
Soft Neck Garlic (Allium sativum var. sativum)
- Grows larger bulbs, with 12-20 smaller cloves per bulb.
- Matures faster than hard necks.
- Thrives in a more mild – hot climate.
- Milder flavour.
- Best for long term storage.
- There are eight subtypes: Blanco Piacenza, California early and late whites, Corsican red, Inchelium red, silver rose, silver white and French red.
Are there Garlic Seeds for Growing Garlic?
Actually no. To grow garlic, all you need is more garlic! The big clump of garlic you buy is called a bulb, the bits you split off from it are called cloves.
Each of these cloves will grow into their very own bulb of garlic. Clever eh? You can buy ‘seed garlic’ from your local plant store. These are guaranteed to be disease free.
Personally, I buy organic bulbs from the farmers market – that way I know they will grow in our area. And *bonus* you are supporting your local farmers.
You can use the stuff from the supermarket – just don’t use the garlic from China. They spray it to stop it growing. EWWWWW just don’t buy Chinese garlic at all.
You can tell that is it Chinese garlic because they remove all of the roots off of the bottom of the bulbs.
To grow our families year long supply of garlic, I generally plant the cloves of 8-10 bulbs of soft neck garlic. To make a decent amount of money off of them, try to plant the cloves off of 100-200 bulbs.
When do You Plant Garlic?
In colder areas, it is best to sow garlic in early Autumn/Fall. This allows it to have the maximum length of growing season. In warmer areas, sow the garlic in Springtime for best results. Personally, we go for Autumn/Fall.
How do You Grow Garlic?
Once you have chosen and bought your seed garlic, split it into the individual cloves, leaving the papery skin intact as much as possible.
Prepare your garden bed by removing weeds and loosening the soil.
Add plenty of rotted manure or compost and lightly dig it in.
Take each clove and press them fat end down into the ground 1-2 inches deep, and 4 inches apart. I don’t push mine too far in as I put 4 inches of mulch over the top.
Cover the top of the garden with 2-4 inches of mulch – straw, lawn clippings, coffee grounds or wood shavings are ideal. Something that won’t pack down too hard or prohibit the garlic’s growth. In the past, I have used both straw and coffee grounds with success.
This year we are mulching with stable waste from our goats – mostly wood shavings and goat poop.
The mulch helps keep the weeds away. Garlic doesn’t like competition, so keeping the weeds down is pretty much your only job while they are growing.
Over the heat of the summer, ensure they don’t dry out if you are having a drought. I find mulching helps reduce their water requirements significantly.
If your garlic throws up flower heads, clip the stalks off and use them to make garlic scape pesto. Stopping the garlic flowering ensures their energy goes towards growing bigger bulbs.
You harvest garlic once the tops start to brown and dry. This is usually late Summer. Simply loosen the soil with a fork and pull up the plant.
Leave the bulbs attached to the leaves and sit in the sun for 2 days to dry out.
Or you can remove them all together and store the bulbs in a mesh bag.
Remove any bruised or damaged bulbs and use them first.
Store the bulbs in a cool, dry and dark area. Do not put garlic in the refrigerator; it will sprout and become bitter.
Stored well, garlic will last up to a year. Keep some of the biggest bulbs for your own seed garlic for next season.
Have you tried growing garlic? Are you going to give it a try this season?
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