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Reap the benefits of garlic by growing the bulbs in the organic garden. This easy vegetable will supply your table with fresh garlic for healthy cooking all year. Organic garlic is easier than you might think and certainly worth the minimal effort it takes!
If you're a lukewarm devotee to garlic, growing fresh garlic in your organic garden may change that. Say farewell to improperly cured, bitter, dried, or sprouting garlic cloves from your local supermarket. Replace these with earthy, robust cloves harvested from your garden the same day they add their fragrance to your stir-fries and stews. Alternatively, take control of your garlic's quality with proper storage techniques.
Grow Organic Garlic in the Garden
Soft Neck, Hard Neck, and Elephant Organic Garlic
Soft neck garlic is the choice for gardeners who plan to store their garlic. The cloves are small, and the husks are tightly wrapped around the clove, which enhances storability. Hard neck garlic doesn't store as well but is excellent for fresh eating. Many home gardeners include a mix of the soft neck and hard neck garlic in the garden. Elephant garlic has a characteristically mild flavor and is best for eating fresh.
Soil Preparation and Planting
Like all root crops, garlic grows best in rich, loose soil. If you attempt to plant garlic in heavy clay soil, you face the risk of losing your crop to rot. Gardeners can overcome poor soil conditions easily by planting garlic in raised beds. Choose a site with full sun, and amend the garden bed with compost or rotted manure.
Plant your garlic in the early fall, around the same time you would typically plant grass seed. The warm soil conditions and cool air temperatures are ideal for strong root development.
Gardeners should plant their garlic bulbs at least two to three inches beneath the soil to prevent frost heaving from damaging the cloves. A three-inch layer of organic mulch also protects the bulbs from damage from temperature variances. Use shredded leaves, compost, or bark chips, whatever is most readily available.
Garlic needs an organic fertilizer high in phosphorus and low in nitrogen to promote a healthy root system rather than encouraging leafy top growth. Garlic isn't a heavy feeder, so an application of bone meal in the early spring is adequate. If the plants look stressed or the soil is sandy, you can water the plants with a weak solution of compost or manure tea.
Organic Garlic Pests and Diseases
Carry out good crop rotation practices with garlic and other allium crops to avoid soil-borne diseases like basal rot, white rot, downy mildew, botrytis rot, and penicillium decay. Don't overcrowd your garlic plants; the spacing of six to eight inches reduces problems with rot and mildew.
It's essential to obtain your garlic bulbs or seeds from local, reputable growers that provide healthy stock. Ask your grower if he can guarantee nematode-free garlic, as this pest can be difficult to eradicate from the soil.
Harvesting, Curing and Storing Garlic
In the peak of summer, when the leaves are beginning to brown, you can dig up your mature garlic with a shovel. Pulling can damage the husks, which encourages spoilage. Most garlic is ready before July 4th. Brush off any loose dirt, and hang the garlic in a dark, dry location until you're ready to use it. Save your largest garlic cloves for fall planting, and remember to choose a new site for your garlic crop to prevent diseases.