I love growing (and eating) garlic! It is one of the easiest, most rewarding crops that I have successfully grown. This year will mark my 6th harvest despite the fact that I've lived at least 75 miles away from the garlic patch each year. The first time I planted garlic I had no idea what I was doing. I had just studied herb spirals in class and I thought it would be brilliant to grow a garlic spiral! Garlic is an herb, right? I have since grown to understand the virtues of planting rows and now believe this is a good method when planting garlic.
Washington has the perfect climate for growing large garlic bulbs. The ground needs to freeze for the bulbs in the winter, and the sun needs to shine right before harvest in the summer. Garlic requires minimal inputs and will grow and thrive without extra attention or nutrients. The only time I fertilize is when I am striving for maximum nutrition from my bulbs. Garlic is often used as a companion plant because most pests (aphids) avoid the sulfur and volatile oils that give garlic it's distinct flavor and smell.
I believe that anyone can grow garlic! All you need is some land, a single head of garlic, and patience. Each November I find myself in the rain, mud, and wind getting a section of my garden ready to plant garlic. Although I do not fully practice biodynamic farming I do follow the biodynamic calendar and always make sure I plant on a root day. I highly recommend at the very least following a biodynamic calendar when you plant. I will write more about the benefits of biodynamic philosophy in a different post but you can find my favorite calendar here:
After the garden bed is prepped I simply take a clove of garlic from seed that I saved the year prior and tear the cloves apart. I try to save my prettiest, biggest bulbs for seed. Each clove gets planted with the wrapper on, pointy side up, 6 inches apart, and about 6 inches deep. I also obsessively mulch my garlic beds because it helps tremendously with keeping the weeds down. Normally around February I can see the little green blades of garlic poking out of the earth and by Spring they are starting to get big. About a month before the garlic is ready for harvest you will get a special treat from the hardneck varieties: garlicscapes!
Garlic will tell you it's ready to be harvested and cured once the bottom three leaves of the plant turn brown. This normally occurs in July. After all the garlic is pulled out of the ground it needs to be cured or used immediately. I cure mine for 6-8 weeks in a dark, dry space, the barn works best. It needs to be hung upside down to dry properly. I keep the green stalks in tact to keep the bulb safe from bacteria but if you have limited space you could cure only the bulbs. 70 cloves of garlic is enough to cook delicious, immune boosting meals all year round and I have several extras to give away as gifts, too! Now go plant some garlic!