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Growing Garlic for Beginners

Amy HillIn my household, we eat a lot of garlic. 

Garlic is great for your health. It contains cancer-fighting chemicals, relaxes blood vessels, and increases blood flow. But an increasing amount of garlic in supermarkets comes from China, which produces 75% of the world's supply of the pungent herb. Concern about levels and types of pesticides and soil contaminants found on food imports, both fresh and processed, is causing many people, including me, to look for safe and reliable sources of food. So I am starting to grow my own. 

garlic shipment

I was late in placing my order this year so I didn't get the specific variety I wanted, but I think the organic 'Red Toch' softneck garlic I got from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange in Mineral, Virginia, will be more than satisfactory.

Red Toch organic garlic

I'm mixing up my plantings this year, starting some in containers and mixing some in with ornamentals in established beds. 

I started with a clean, frost-proof container, to which I added a mixture of potting compost, perlite, and sand, about three-quarters of the way to the top.

container ready for planting

To that, I mixed in a tiny bit of lime per the planting instructions, as well as a quart of worm castings and some additional homemade compost. 

compost and worm castings

I planted the individual cloves about six inches apart, with skins attached. The skins help protect the cloves from rotting in the ground. Then I topped off the container with an inch and a half of the compost and castings mix. 

container planted

Keeping the garlic watered is essential during the growth period. It's been dry lately, so I'm hand-watering the containers and topping them off with a mulch of shredded leaves and bark to conserve the moisture it does get. 

container finished

And now I wait. Between now and spring, I'll be reading up on harvesting and curing.