Growing Gourmet Garlics in the Home Garden

Article written by Saturday6TM blogger Kenny Point from Veggie Gardening Tips

If you haven't tried planting garlic in your backyard garden, then let me provide a few reasons for you to start this season. Homegrown garlics are productive, flavorful and very easy to grow. Add to that, the fact that this root crop is health promoting, it goes untouched by insects, and there are gourmet varieties available to you from seed that are superior in many ways to the common strain that you find for sale at the local grocer!

What makes homegrown garlic so special? Well, let's start with the diversity and flexibility that it offers to the home gardener or cook. There are mild-flavored garlics, and other varieties that are spicy hot. Some types are great for cooking with their complex and lingering flavors, while others are better suited for using in uncooked dishes like salsas or guacamole.

Then, there's a range of colors to be had, and an assortment of bulb sizes and shapes as well. My favorites are the varieties with huge bulbs and as few as four plump cloves that save time with peeling and speed kitchen prep. You can locate online sources with photos and descriptions of seed stock for different gourmet garlic varieties that go by names such as Early Red Italian, Kettle River Giant, Chinese Pink, Spanish Roja, Purple Stripe and Idaho Silver. Order early for the best selections as the seed supply is often limited.

Garlic seed (the separated cloves of the garlic bulb) can be planted in the spring or fall, but I recommend a fall planting, if possible, for the best production and flavor. Typical fall planting times range from September through early November in most areas, with the goal being to plant the seed four to six weeks before the ground freezes in your region. Sow garlic seed a few inches deep and six to eight inches apart in each direction.

The major benefit of fall planting is that the plants have an opportunity to develop root systems before winter sets in. The established root systems will support rapid top growth the following spring. Timing your seed planting is important because you want to provide opportunity for decent root development, but not enough time for the garlic to produce significant leaf growth before the soil freezes and the plants go dormant for the winter.

Mulching the garlic bed with straw or shredded leaves in December will help protect the cloves from soil fluctuations during winter, as well as restrict weed growth during the growing season. Little care will be required during spring and summer other than to keep the beds weeded and watered as necessary. A supplemental feeding with compost or an organic fertilizer in the spring will also give the plants a boost.

From a fall planting, you can expect to harvest big and beautiful garlic bulbs during early to mid-summer, enabling you to plant another fall vegetable crop such as kale or turnips in the area vacated by the garlic harvest. So if all this sounds interesting to you, it isn't too late to plan for a planting of garlic seed in your own backyard this coming fall season.