Looking to make the most out of your garden? Flower beds might give your lawn a great aesthetic, but odds are you won't be using most of them in the kitchen. Garlic, on the other hand, is easy to grow at home and can become a flavor component of almost any meal. Garlic is a relatively simple plant to care for, even for those without a green thumb. More importantly, garlic works as a natural pest repellent, helping to keep your flowers free of unwanted bugs. So why not plant this versatile vegetable today?
The main challenge of growing garlic is that it takes some patience. It is recommended to plant garlic four to six weeks before the ground freezes, around October or November. The garlic bulbs won't be ready for harvesting until next summer. Make a note of where you plant your garlic to make sure not to try and put other plants in the same place come springtime.
Garlic should be planted in raised beds if possible, as too much stagnant water can cause the roots to rot. Make sure the garlic in an area that gets full sunlight as it will not prosper in shade. Loamy, slightly acidic soil is best for this vegetable.
Any avid cook is well familiar with garlic cloves. The cloves are sections (of what?) that can be pulled off the bulb and be planted to form a new garlic bulb. Garlic bulbs from the grocery store, in regards to sprouting, will likely not be as successful as those ordered from a seed company. Take the garlic bulb and separate the cloves several days before planting them, but do not remove the skin as you would if you were cooking with them. Bury the garlic two inches below the ground and spread each clove several inches apart. In the spring, shoots should stem up from the ground.
Gardeners in colder regions should mulch the area where garlic is planted before winter to prevent the bulbs from dying in the cold temperatures. In the springtime when green is sprouting, remove the mulch to give the garlic full sunlight.
By June, your garlic should sprout flowery stalks called scapes. Remove these stalks to encourage the bulbs to grow. Scapes can be used for a variety of culinary purposes.
Two Basic Types of Garlic
- Hardneck: This type of garlic is grown mostly in the northeast. Hardneck garlic has larger cloves and a stiff stalk, making it great for culinary use. However, hardneck garlic does not have a long shelf life when compared to softneck garlic, which is why many gardeners choose to grow both varieties.
- Softneck: Garlic with this designation has more cloves per bulb and a softer stalk. It has a long shelf life, which is why softneck garlic is the variety most found in grocery outlets.
Garlic is a great organic pest repellent for your garden. The bulbs themselves will keep undesirable insects away from your flowers while they grow, but it can also be used once it is harvested. Mince several cloves of garlic and mix them with a couple teaspoons of mineral oil. Then strain out the garlic and add the oil to water and mix with a splash of dish soap to create a natural bug repellant. The compounds found in garlic repel many flower-killing insects, such as aphids and beetles. The soap and oil encourage the mixture to stick to your plants, but don't apply it on a hot, sunny day, because the hot oil could be harmful to your flowers.