Who doesn’t love a little garlic in their food right? Garlic is truly something that belongs in almost any dish - that is, if the dish you’re cooking calls for garlic anyway. We think that no meal is complete if garlic isn’t dashed, poured, or spooned into the equation! It tastes good, it smells great, and it has plenty of health benefits!
What IS Garlic
Before we go over the health benefits and how to plant it, why don’t we get to know our delicious little bulbs a little more - the folks over at Gardener's Path explain this rather wonderfully! Fun fact, garlic is considered a cultigen! Meaning that it is not known to grow in the wild and is only cultivated.
Garlic is a bulbous perennial with close ties to other plants in the Allium genus like chives and leeks. They can grow up to 18-24 inches tall; the bulbs are a storage organ for the plant as fuel reserves for severe or cold conditions! You can use the stems for something else, but the “head” or the bulb is all we’re going to be focusing on.
Two Varieties Of Garlic
Before you consider planting garlic into your own garden, you should know that there are two different types of garlic that you can grow. A soft neck variety, A. sativum. Or the hard neck variety, A. sativum var. Ophioscorodon. Let’s take a look at the reasons why you should be planting these bulbs!
As the nickname suggests, the above-ground stalks that grow will just flop over during the summertime, indicating that they are ready to be harvested. The soft neck variety is what you’ll often see in your local supermarkets since they are easier to grow in warmer climates and are more productive.
This is basically the opposite of the soft necks. The stalks of the hard neck will stay upright even after they die back. Though it is harder to grow(in regards to zones), the reward will be much greater when it comes to depth and variety of flavors you can get. Not to mention how the bulb sizes are much larger with this variety.
Health Benefits That Come With a Catch
No matter which type you’re going to grow, they all have potent health benefits. Garlic produces something called allicin(when crushed) that possesses antibiotic and antimicrobial properties, killing bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Garlic can also help with lowering cholesterol and those with elevated blood pressures.
The catch is that you have to eat it raw if you want to consume garlic for its health benefits. The allicin produced when crushing the garlic will oxidize, and its antimicrobial properties will dissipate quickly. Unfortunately, garlic also loses its effectiveness if heated above 140 degrees Fahrenheit or 60 degrees Celsius - so cooked garlic is a no-no!
How To Grow Your Garlic
Garlic is one of the first crops you can harvest during the springtime. They thrive in fertile, well-draining soil with a loamy texture, and like with many plants, they require the full sun to grow the biggest bulbs.
Vernalization is basically exposing your bulbs to cold conditions for an extended period before you can plant them into the soil. The ideal temperatures you can use to stimulate the bulbs go from around 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit or 4-10 degrees celsius. This is more generally done for the hard neck variety since the soft neck variety grows typically in warmer climates.
However, suppose you want to produce the larger bulbs for the soft neck variety. In that case, it’s recommended that you vernalize the bulbs in your fridge for about 8-12 weeks before you plant them. Plan your vernalization ahead since the best time to sow your bulbs is around fall time, which is September and October.
It is best if you sow your bulbs in the fall time since they will start to lay down roots until the ground freezes during the wintertime. Consider this as giving them an early start since they’ll have a booming growth once springtime comes!
Garlic must grow in well-draining soil. Excessive moisture in your soil can lead to diseases. Building a raised bed can help with the drainage and is super beneficial in areas with high rainfall levels. The soil you’re planting your bulbs in must be a pH of 6.0 to 7.5 - which you need to prepare several weeks ahead of time before you sow your bulbs.
Consider planting your garlic alongside other plants since it can deter many pests, so the other plants will definitely benefit from this effect. You can plant other herbs alongside your garlic if you want to get all of those health benefits right into your cooking after you’ve harvested them!
There’s so much more we can talk about when it comes to choosing which garlic varieties you want to plant and other tips when it comes to finally planting them. But like we said earlier, Gardener’s Path has everything you’ll need to know about this!