Garlic has been used both as a food source and a medicinal plant for thousands of years; dating back as far as when the pyramids at Giza were constructed according to some sources. It has been used by a variety of cultures including Greek, Roman and Chinese just to name a few and its touted benefits range from reducing cholesterol to warding off evil spirits. I really can’t speak to the medicinal qualities of garlic but I certainly enjoy its use as a seasoning element in many of my favorite dishes and if you enjoy garlic as much as I do and live in colder garden zones such as zones 4 through 7, now is the time to plant it for a flavorful harvest next spring.
Successfully growing garlic starts with having the right cloves to plant. You want to obtain cloves that are plump and not soft. For our friends in warmer garden zones 8 and 9 you can plant garlic even into December. You will also be able to harvest your garlic in the spring about a month earlier than a gardener in northern zones. Since garlic prefers cooler soil southern gardeners should plant their garlic at least 4 inches below the soil surface as the soil will be cooler that far underground.
Garlic is a member of the onion family and it is an easy plant to grow which does not take up too much room in your garden. It is also generally not targeted by insects or animals and as a matter of fact, it can be used as a repellant for rabbits and moles. It does require a sunny planting area with soil that is free of clumps and stones and has been loosened to a depth of 8 to 12 inches. It also prefers soil that is rich and fertile so be sure to add compost to your planting bed or container. You should plant the garlic bulb or clove as it is often referred to with the tip of the clove facing up at least 2 inches and up to 4 inches underground. This helps prevent freezing and thawing of the soil during the winter which can cause the clove to rot.
You can plant the cloves relatively close together but allow room for the clove to mature. If you want smaller cloves you can space them about 4 inches apart and if you prefer larger cloves you can space them about 8 inches apart. After you have finished planting the cloves and watering them in you will want to put a layer of mulch on your planting bed. Mulching is an important step in the process as it helps retain moisture in the soil, it inhibits the growth of weeds and it also helps insulate the soil during the winter. You can use chopped leaves, straw or other materials and you want to put down at least 4 inches of mulch on the bed.
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