Garlic, with its enticing aroma and robust flavor, is a great way to add a little zest to any recipe. It’s also fairly easy to grow, and a crop can be started in late fall.
There are two main groups of garlic: softneck and hardneck. When perusing the grocery store, you are more likely to find softneck garlic because it is easier to grow and more common. This delicious bulb is milder in flavor, produces more cloves and stores longer than hardneck garlic; however, most chefs prefer hardneck garlic because it has a stronger flavor and easy-to-peel cloves. Softneck garlic typically flourishes in warmer climates, while hardnecks thrive in colder regions.
The best time to plant garlic is after the first frost, usually in late fall. You should break the bulbs into cloves and plant them 4 to 6 inches apart, in straight rows, with 18 to 24 inches of space between rows. Cover the cloves with roughly two inches of soil. Garlic can grow in most soils but is more successful in well-drained soil rich in organic matter. The cloves should be planted with the pointed ends facing up. Adding mulch is a good way to retain moisture and regulate the temperature of the soil.
Keep your garlic watered, and remove weeds regularly. During spring, start foliar feeding the garlic with a good fertilizer or manure. You should cut the scapes when they begin to curl towards the leaves—this helps the bulbs grow larger. During midsummer, from July to early August, the leaves will start to discolor, usually turning yellow or brown, meaning the garlic is almost ready to harvest. Stop watering the plants, then wait until one-third of the plant looks withered or is turning brown before you start digging up the garlic bulbs. Remove excess dirt but be careful not to damage the outer layer of the garlic.
To begin curing the garlic, bundle or braid the plant and hang it in a place where there is good air circulation and minimal sunlight. Curing takes around three to six weeks. Once the garlic is ready, cut the roots and store in a cool, dry place. Remember that softnecks can be stored longer, typically around eight months, while hardnecks are good for six months or less.
With its tantalizing flavor, garlic is a wonderful addition to any delectable food dish and it’s sure to leave your taste buds craving more. Try growing your own garlic to enhance your garden, your meals and your health, and to save some money at the grocery store.
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