Garlic is a member of the allium family. It has lots of relatives that we use in lots of different recipes. Some of these you may be familiar with, and some you may not know as well.
Of course, we have garlic and leeks, which have a milder flavor. We have chives. We often chop them up and put them in salads or use as toppings. We have different types of onions. They’re all different colors: red onions, yellow onions, and white onions. We also have green onions or shallots. You might see elephant garlic in the grocery store. It often may be in a net bag. It has a flavor similar to garlic, but has a nice, mild flavor.
Probably one of the really appealing things about garlic is that it’s so easy to store. Whereas onions may sprout under the sink, and some things you have to keep refrigerated, garlic is tough and holds up for a long time during storage.
When we think about planting spring flowering bulbs, like daffodils, tulips, and crocus, we plant those in the fall. We always plant them in the fall for bloom in the spring. Garlic isn’t any different. It’s hard to imagine that we’re going to plant. It’s hard to imagine that we’re going to plant some vegetables in the fall, but you can plant your garlic in the fall just as well.
So, where do you purchase garlic? You can go to your garden center, and buy garlic there. Or, you can just go to the grocery store, and buy some of the cloves there in the grocery bin, and use those to plant. It will work just fine.
Garlic likes a nice, loose soil. You might want to work some compost into the soil. Just get it loosened up well. I’m just going to use a small rake to turn the soil up. You can tell that’s nice and loose, because you want that bulb to expand and grow in the nice, loose soil.
We’re just going to pull the skin back, and pull the cloves apart just like you would if you were getting ready to do a recipe – such as when it calls for a clove of garlic. Pull those apart. And then, just dig about two inches deep, and always put the point up. Insert the bulb in the hole, cover it up, and tamp it down. Move over about six inches, put in another clove, and cover it.
We may not actually see any growth until next spring. It’s a lot like planting tulips or daffodils. You may not see anything come up until in the spring. But in the meantime, to can keep track of where you put them, you can put a small marker in the area where you planted your garlic, or where your row of garlic is, so that next spring, you don’t plant something else over the top of the same row. After we water it, it will come up and we’ll have our tops next spring. You’ll watch those, and in late spring or early summer when the tops start to fade and bend over – that’s when they’re ready to be pulled. Pull them and take them to an area that’s cool, dry, and shady to let them harden, and to let the skin cure. Then, you can take them inside. Always store garlic in a cool, dry area, so that it lasts, and doesn’t sprout too soon.
You can even save some of those same garlic bulbs for planting in your own garden next year. So, after you’ve made your initial purchase, and you’ve grown your own garlic, then you’ll have enough to keep going for many years to come.
This feature story prepared with Evelyn Neier, Kansas State University Research and Extension Youth Gardening Specialist, 4-H Youth Development. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.