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  • Writer's pictureJere Folgert

Why Grow Your Own Garlic?

Updated: Sep 2, 2022

Garlic gives us really bad breath. And many keep their distance from garlic and rarely use it in cooking because it just streams out of our skin pores like nothing else. Nonetheless, garlic makes everything savory (or sweet in some cases) and helps many dishes simply taste much better. Because I love garlic so much, I grow my own. And you can too. Here are 9 reasons to grow your own garlic.

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Growing You Own Garlic

1. Some of the supermarket garlic is imported from China, where it may be grown under questionable conditions, then bleached and fumigated before it enters the U.S. What we see in supermarkets is generally one type of garlic - a white softneck.  Garlic lovers with a taste for something a bit more diverse might try growing hardneck garlic (Get your seed garlic: GroEat Garlic Farm.)  By growing your own hardneck garlic, you will get more of the true diversity of garlic, like the hardneck porcelain to purple-stripe types;  all with wonderful, mild to fiery hot tastes.

2. Homegrown garlic has been found to have higher levels of vitamins, minerals, and allicin, the compound that is responsible for garlic’s health benefits. You need to plant your Garlic bulbs in an open, sunny site with fluffy, fertile soil with plenty of organic matter.

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Hardneck Garlic after Harvest

3. Garlic is easy to grow at home by following a few simple guidelines. Begin by ordering your seed in August or early September for good availability. (Order Hardneck seed garlic from: GroEat Garlic Farm.)  Garlic sold in the grocery store is not recommended for planting. If you are unable to purchase garlic by mail order, check at your local farmers market where you can find named varieties for sale. In simple terms, there are two types of garlic to choose from: hardneck and softneck. Hardneck varieties of garlic grows well in cooler climates (northern hemisphere of the United States). Softneck grows well in warmer regions. One advantage of softneck varieties is that they store longer than hardneck varieties. The big advantage of hardneck garlic is it is more flavorful as compared to softneck. A few hardneck varieties that are easy to grow include "Music", "Spanish Roja", "German Extra Hardy", and "Chesnok Red". Growing your own garlic allows you to experience entirely new flavors that vary from mild and nutty to hot, zingy and spicy. Begin by separating a bulb into cloves. Plant only the largest, plumpest cloves 6-8 inches apart.  The bigger the clove the bigger the bulb it will produce.  Tuck the cloves into your prepared site with the flat side down and the pointy side up.  The top of each clove should be about three inches below the soil surface.

4. Garlic plants are unique and beautiful. They are one of the first plants to emerge in the spring (sometimes they pop out of the snow!) and grow tall with beautiful broad leaves. They develop a gorgeous "pig tail" called a garlic scape that is attractive and delicious. It is recommended you remove this scape, so the plant can pour its energy into building large garlic bulbs.

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Garlic Plants in June

5. Garlic uses garden space at a time it would normally go unused. You can plant another crop of peas or beans after you harvest the garlic in late July of next year. Most home gardeners put a great deal of energy and time into planting seeds in the spring. By growing your own garlic, you'll be planting in the fall. It will be one less thing you have to worry about in the spring, and you'll have cute, green plants to look at when you're planting the rest of your garden.

6. For every garlic clove planted into the soil (pointy side up), you’ll get a big return. Hardneck garlic, grown in ideal conditions, can produce 5 to 6 times more than planted. For example, if you order a pound of "Music" garlic for planting, you'll probably have 4 or 7 bulbs (depending on the size) 4 to 7 cloves per bulb to plant. At harvest, you could potentially end up with more than 5 pounds of fresh garlic.

7. By growing your own garlic, you can save your own "seed" for planting in the fall. Garlic is typically grown from cloves, not garlic seed. There’s a big difference between ‘garlic seed’ and ‘seed garlic.’  Most people plant seed garlic, which means planting large well-formed garlic cloves from healthy disease-free stock.  Garlic seed, on the other hand, is produced at the end of the "pigtail" garlic scape, in the garlic plant's flower. Because you will be removing the scape in early summer, you may never see these "seeds". After harvest, select the largest bulbs and cloves for planting in the fall. Keep in mind, that seed garlic obtained from a distributor will probably need to go through acclimatization where it settles into your climate, location, and garden soil. In other words, it may take a couple of years for garlic to settle into your soil and climate before it grows big and bold.

8. By growing your own garlic, you just might eat more garlic! If you eat garlic on a regular basis, it may provide you with important health benefits. Garlic has been used as medicine for thousands of years and it is still regularly prescribed, either as food or in supplement form, for a wide array of ailments. Garlic is considered possibly effective for: certain types of cancer; high blood pressure; and several fungal conditions including ringworm and athlete’s foot. For more detailed information on the health effects of garlic, see this article by the National Institute of Health.

9. Having your own garlic patch has many health benefits: It helps you eat more fresh food as you decide what kinds of fertilizers and pesticides come in contact with your food. It saves you money at the grocery store. Growing garlic in your garden gives you a new appreciation for nature when you can have the opportunity to see how garlic grows. Growing Garlic may also stimulate many new interests. You may want to learn more about botany and nutrition. Growing garlic also gives you the opportunity to give back to your community. If you have abundant garlic bulbs, you might give these bulbs to the local soup kitchen or food bank. Growing garlic can be a great time to create memories with your children, memories that can last a lifetime. Growing garlic can lead to new skills and knowledge for you and your family. For more information, see this article by Harvard Medical School.

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Jere Folgert is the owner of GroEat Garlic Farm in Bozeman, Montana. GroEat Farm is a small, sustainable family farm located in the beautiful Hyalite Foothills, in the shadows of the Gallatin Mountain Range.  The hardneck varieties that they grow on their farm flourish, due to the combination of the cold winters, temperate summers, moist spring, and the dynamic alluvial soils, washed down from the Gallatin Range.

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