When you first start a vegetable garden its easy to think about what you want to grow – tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce – the basics for a summer salad. But as you get more into gardening, you’ll begin to look around the grocery store and realize there is so much more you could grow at home to provide for yourself!
You’ll also realize that your garden isn’t just a one-season opportunity. You can add row covers for season extension and even plant crops in the fall that will over-winter and provide for you the next spring and summer. Garlic is one of those season-crossing opportunities, and it’s a crop that is a must-do for anyone who has a year-round garden space available.
Why grow garlic? I can’t really think of a reason why NOT to, but here are five reasons to add it to your rotation:
Timing – garlic is planted in the fall after most of your other veggies have been harvested (depending on your growing season, with some exceptions for warmer climates). Balance out your to-do list by getting this task done when you don’t have a ton of other seeds and seedlings to plant. You’ll be happy come spring when the garlic pops up all by itself and you don’t have to put it on your spring to-do list!
Check out this garlic growing guide from Charlie Nardozzi for more tips on planting.
Variety – did you know that there are actually thousands of varieties of garlic? When you buy it at the grocery store you’re just picking up a head of “garlic” but when you’re shopping for seed garlic you might be buying varieties like “music,” “carpathean,” or “german white.” You can also choose between hardneck and softneck varieties, making it possible to envision one of those gorgeous garlic braids hanging in your kitchen!
Check out this guide to garlic varieties from Storey Publishing.
Ease – I promise you, garlic is not that hard to grow. Pick a nice sunny location with well-drained soil, give it a little mulching in the fall then organic fertilizer in the spring. Keep it pretty well-weeded and watch it do its thing! Harvesting garlic and getting it ready to store is also not too complicated. It can take a bit of work when you harvest but once your garlic is cured and trimmed it is easy to store for long-lasting use.
For a tutorial on harvesting, curing, and storing garlic, visit The Happy Hive Homestead.
Bounty – guess what, garlic cloves aren’t the only part of the plant you’ll enjoy when you plant garlic! Garlic scapes are another delicious bonus – they’re the curly stalk that pops up early in the garden season. You simply chop off the scape and use it in stir fries or pestos. In addition, garlic is one of those crops that can supply you with a year-round bounty. Growing a year-round supply, plus seed garlic for your next crop, just takes a little bit of planning. You’ll never have to buy seed garlic again!
You’ll find tips for planning for a year-round supply on Homestead How-To.
Taste – I don’t know any herb or spice that is more widely used than garlic (other than perhaps salt and pepper). And if you grow a bunch of different varieties you’ll be able to see how each of them adds flavor to different dishes. In addition to using fresh garlic, you can also roast garlic and store it in your freezer in oil for easy access.
Cooking with garlic is pretty straightforward, but if you’re looking for some ideas check out Mmm, Garlic – a site dedicated entirely to this amazing allium!
Carrie Williams Howe is a blogger at The Happy Hive Homestead and an Editor at Homestead How-To. She is the Executive Director of an educational nonprofit by day, and parent and aspiring homesteader by night and on weekends. She lives in Williston,Vermont, with her husband, two young children, and a rambunctious border collie. Carrie has a PhD in educational leadership and is passionate about learning collaboratively. Connect with Carrie on The Happy Hive Facebook page. Read all of Carrie’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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