Planting Garlic: Budget Gardening Tip

When the weather begins to cool and you start thinking about planting spring blooming bulbs, don’t forget to plant your garlic. Not the most savory combination, right? But when it comes down to it, garlic’s not cheap when bought in the supermarket – at least not compared to growing it yourself. Our local grocery store offers three heads of garlic for $0.99, but if you were to plant that garlic in the ground, you would end up with a great deal more garlic than just three heads – and for much cheaper than buying it in the store. (Each individual clove of garlic will grow and develop into its own bulb, creating exponentially more garlic than you started with.) Just be sure to purchase organic garlic – preferably from a farmers’ market – which is more likely to grow successfully, or buy garlic for planting at a local nursery.

The best part? Even if your thumb is far from green, planting garlic is simple. Break apart the bulb of garlic into cloves. Plant cloves with the bottoms down in rich, well drained soil (amend with some nice, rich compost , if necessary) in a location that receives full sun. Unpeeled cloves should be planted pointy end up (there may be a green sprout coming up from the top of it), 2 inches deep in the soil and 5 inches apart from other cloves. Sprinkle more compost on top, then cover with mulch in order to retain moisture and deter weeds throughout the winter. Be sure to mulch again after the ground freezes or whenever it looks like another layer is needed, in order to protect plants from the cold.

Harvest garlic in the spring, after the tops have died back, by digging up the bulbs by hand or with a rake, rather than pulling them. Brush any dirt off of the bulbs and allow them to dry in a cool, dark place. After drying, tops and roots can be removed with scissors or pruners to within about an inch of the bulbs, or braid the tops together after the bulbs are completely dried.

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