Garlic is one of the most popular items in our recipes. I go through quite a lot in my home kitchen and have enjoyed growing it with ease in our kitchen garden. There are a wide variety of flavors and types not known beyond the supermarket selection, from spicy hot to pungent and bold. If you haven't already (and your garden isn't already covered in ice), the time to plant is now.
If it seems odd, with leaves falling and mercury dropping, here's a tip to remember for years to come: remember to plant garlic when vampires haunt your vision. (This won't work if you're a True Blood or Anne Rice fanatic, by the way.) Halloween is the ideal time to plant garlic, and I'm not above tricks to remember this treat. Another tip for flower lovers: plant your garlic at the same time you do your other Spring-blooming bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils. The principal is the same: The garlic needs time to establish great roots and get into the ground before the ground freezes. For those in the North, late October and early November is ideal. Those of us in the South, where our Cooking Light Kitchen Garden grows, can plant as late as Thanksgiving.
1. Buy bulbs from a seed source, not the supermarket. There's more to garlic than the flaky white bulb most often seen. Try hardneck and softneck types, and explore varieties such as "Chesnok Red" or "Music."
2. Pick a sunny spot with cake-like soil. Look for 6 to 8 hours of full sun and work the soil when it crumbles in your hand. Dig a trench 3" deep.
3. It takes garlic to make garlic. Individual cloves are the "seeds" that are planted. No need to remove the thin skin, but it is a good idea to soak the cloves in compost tea or seaweed solution for a healthy boost. Plant with the root end down and the pointed end facing up, about 6-8" apart.
4. Cover them up for a cozy winter ahead. Cover planted cloves with 2" of soil and mulch with straw or shredded leaves. They'll be busy putting down roots and getting established for Spring growth.
5. Sit back until Spring. If you planted a hardneck variety, an extra bonus of growing your own garlic will be the scapes that emerge. Harvest after they've curled around into a loop and are 8" long or more. Prized for garlic pesto or sauteed as a rare treat, this is a perk from your "hard" work.
Get growing! More to come in our Cooking Light Garden column on the varieties we're growing and recipes we've tested to showcase the harvest. Check back with us late Spring for tips on harvesting and enjoying your stinking rose...
See More: 10 Great Garlic Recipes