Tips and Instructions for Growing Garlic in Pots
Why grow your own garlic? Isn’t it far easier to buy it from the shop? And if you haven’t got a garden or aren’t really keen on gardens can you really start growing garlic at home in pots?
In this article I’ll try and give you the answers to these questions. If I manage to convince you that growing your own garlic isn’t such a bad idea I’ll provide you with some simple instructions on how you can start growing garlic in pots in your own home.
Garlic is one of the most famous of all the herbs. It has a reputation for preventing a whole range of illnesses from the common cold and flu through to the plague! Even today with the vast numbers of over the counter cold remedies and prescription medicines available, lots of herb growing enthusiasts start taking it (usually as odor-free tablets!) during the colder weather to reduce the chances of catching colds and flu.
However, garlic is best known today for its ability to enhance the taste of food. It makes a superb addition to many recipes, enhancing and bringing out the flavor of other ingredients.
If you have used it in recipes you probably bought it from a local shop or convenience store, but if you want garlic that is full of taste or want to sample different varieties you will need to start growing your own garlic.
Growing Garlic in Pots isn’t Difficult
Garlic, isn’t difficult to grow. You don’t need your own vegetable or herb garden to do it. For just a few dollars and with some “insider information” you can easily make a success of growing garlic in pots at home. And once you’ve succeeded in growing your own garlic, you might be tempted to try growing other herbs also.
To make a start at growing garlic in pots or containers, all you need are some garlic cloves (obtained by splitting up your garlic bulbs) and a few basic materials. If you start growing your garlic in October or November you will have a first harvest the following June, and then a major crop in August or September. This main crop can either be used immediately or stored for use over the winter.
Follow the following simple steps.
Find a Good Growing Position
When you start growing your garlic, choose a place near to your kitchen where you can get at your garlic easily. Make sure the position you choose is sunny for a fair part of the day. You can use any sort of pot you like, but it should have some drainage holes at the bottom. The pot or container should also be about a foot in diameter so that you can plant a reasonable number of garlic cloves. All being well, each clove will produce one new garlic bulb at the end of the growing season.
Buying Your Garlic Cloves:
Garlic is grown by planting the individual cloves of garlic. Each clove when fully grown will become another garlic bulb. If you want to start growing garlic in pots you will need about four or five garlic bulbs to provide you with enough cloves to plant in your pot.
Although garlic bulbs can be purchased from most local food stores, it’s better to buy them from a specialist supplier. The reason for this is that garlic bulbs purchased in a shop or convenience store are very often treated with chemicals to prevent them from sprouting. Needless to say, this is not you want! Also, a specialist garlic bulb supplier will offer you a choice of different varieties of garlic, varying from mild to strong. See my list of garlic varieties to choose from.
Planting Your Pots or Container:
Fill your container with a good quality ‘seed and potting compost’. Break the bulbs into cloves as described above, and plant them 1 ½ to 2 inches deep and about 3 to 4 inches apart. Make sure you plant the cloves the right way up – the bottom of the clove has a slightly concave end.
This short video provides a very good introduction to preparing and planting your garlic bulbs. It illustrates how to plant garlic in the garden, but is just as relevant to growing garlic in pots
Planting and Growing Garlic in Pots:
The ideal time to plant is October/ November. You can plant later, but by planting the cloves at this time of the year they will be able to develop some roots before the cold weather sets in. Keep your newly planted pot or container in a cool place (around 10 degrees centigrade) for about a month. This will help to ensure that each clove produces a bulb. Keep your cloves well watered. It’s easy to forget you need to water regularly if you are growing garlic in pots, because pots dry out much more easily than garden soil.
Harvesting Your Garlic:
Your garlic should be ready for harvesting any time between August to September the following year depending upon the weather and the variety of garlic you have chosen to grow. You’ll get information about planting and harvesting different varieties when you buy your garlic bulbs from the specialist supplier.
It can sometimes be very difficult to decide when your garlic is ripe enough to dig up. The leaves may look strong and healthy, but if you dig them up too early your bulbs will be too small. However, if you harvest too late your bulbs will have started to lose their quality.
The best thing to do is to pull up a single bulb in late June and see how many sheaths (the thin papery layers that surround the bulb) you can peel off the bulb, if the answer is three then the bulb is ready to be lifted. If you can remove four or more layers then it is best to wait another couple of weeks or at least until most of the leaves have turned brown.
Storing Your Garlic:
After you have pulled up your complete crop of garlic, lay the bulbs with their leaves attached on paper or sacking in a dry area. When they have dried out completely, remove the leaves and store them in a dry place. If you feel inclined you can try and plait your bulbs together with their leaves to produce a “garlic string”. If you follow these storage instructions carefully you’ll be able to keep your garlic in good condition for around six months, although some varieties will keep longer.
The “Secrets” of Using Garlic in Your Recipes
Garlic can be used in lots of different recipes and always tastes best when it’s fresh. The distinctive flavor of garlic is released in varying intensities depending on how it is prepared and used in recipes. The more the cloves are chopped or crushed, the more their juices and essential oils are released. For the mildest flavor, use garlic in whole cloves or large slices. For medium to full flavor, chop or mince the garlic to produce small pieces. For a full-on garlic intensity, smash, puree or press the cloves with a garlic press to release its juices and oils.
Once you start growing garlic in pots or containers you’ll have regular supplies of fresh garlic, and you’ll be able to experiment much more easily with new recipes. And when you do this you’ll not only get better garlic flavours in your food; the garlic will also be helping to keep you healthy at the same time!
Happy herb growing,
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