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Garlic for free (well almost)
Member Name: perfectly-p
Advantages: Easy to grow
Disadvantages: Smelly breath
The proper name for garlic is Allium sativum and it is part of the onion family. The word garlic comes from the old German word garlaeac, which means ‘spear leek’. The gar means spear and refers to the pointy leaves and lic means leek, which is another member of the onion family. Garlic is a bulb which, when mature, has segments called cloves and these are held together with a white papery skin.
Garlic has been grown for centuries both for its culinary attributes and for its medicinal properties. It is thought to help prevent heart disease by lowering cholesterol levels, to have anti biotic properties and anti oxidant properties, i.e. protecting the body from those harmful free radicals. Some even claim that eating it raw is good for warding off mosquitoes, but it may also deter all but your best friends too. Garlic is truly multi-cultured. It can be found in cooking recipes from India, China, Indonesia, Turkey and of course France and has now become well established in British cookery.
I am going to concentrate on how to grow your own for only the cost of one single bulb – a matter of a few pence.
You don’t need much space as they can be successfully grown in pots or tubs or even in the flower borders although they are not particularly decorative. In fact garlic is said to put off greenfly although I can’t say I have tried it with my roses; but they do seem to get a lot of greenfly so maybe I should.
Whilst it is possible to grow garlic from seed it is more usually done from the cloves. This requires no pollination and is in effect producing a clone of the original bulb. It is for this reason you should choose a healthy original clove. Any defect will be passed on and possibly amplified with each generation so it is wise, each year, to start with an unrelated ‘parent’ clove. Some books say you should not grow garlic from supermarket bought bulbs because they are not certified as 'disease free’ but I have never had any problems. My personal preference is to use organically grown cloves. The bulbs are readily available in garden centres should you prefer to use those but I find you normally have to buy a pack of bulbs which is too many for my smallish plot.
Garlic does like to grow in a sunny spot in order to produce a good sized bulb. It can be planted at two different times of the year, late autumn and/or spring. My first row is usually planted early October followed by a second row a couple of weeks later. Planting cannot be simpler. Garlic doesn’t need particularly rich growing soil but it doesn’t like to be too wet, so if your soil is clayey, like mine, it helps to dig in some sand or organic matter like compost. I use some of last summer’s sand from my daughters sand pit but you can buy the proper stuff in garden centres.
Break the bulb into separate cloves, you should get around 10-12 from one bulb, and push it about 2” into the soil and space them about 6-8” apart. If you want to plant more than one row then the rows need to be spaced about 12” from each other. You need to do the same for both autumn or spring plantings. One important thing to note - the cloves need to be planted flat end down and pointy end upwards.
There is not much more to do other than to keep them watered during dry spells. In about early June the autumn planted crop will be ready and the spring plantings will be mature by about September. The leaves grow to about 2 feet tall and are thin and green – a bit like a daffodil leaf. You will know when the bulb is ready for harvesting as the leaves start to turn yellowy brown and dry out. Lift your new bulbs gently, trying not to prong the fork through them and hang somewhere to dry out. It doesn’t matter too much where this is so long as it is warm and dry, it can be inside the house or in a shed. If you are particularly arty you can plait them together but they are fine on their own. Once dry, after a couple of weeks or so, they should easily keep for about 4 months.
That’s it – about 10-12 garlic bulbs for the cost of one.
Thanks for reading.
©perfectly-p (aka perfectlypolished)
Summary: Garlic is cheap, fun and easy to grow either in the ground or in pots.