One of the more versatile items you can grow in the veggie garden is garlic. A member of the Allium (onion) family, garlic is widely used in cooking thanks to the flavor it lends to dishes. Garlic is very easy to plant, grow, and care for in the garden. It also takes up very little space so there is almost always room in any garden for garlic.
Other reasons for which garlic is praised are the health benefits it provides. It is low in calories but has plenty of room to pack in nutrients such as Calcium, Copper, Iron, Manganese, Potassium, Phosphorus, Selenium, and Vitamins B1, B6, and C. Garlic also boosts the immune system and has been used to combat colds, reducing the length of illness by several days. It can also lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and it contains antioxidants which could help prevent Alzheimer’s.
The ideal growing season for garlic according to most climates is in the fall. Be sure you are not planting garlic from the grocery store as preservation techniques will make those varieties harder to grow. Cloves should be planted root side down in loose soil with papery wrapping still in place. Space cloves in intervals of about six inches apart so each has room to grow. Be sure your planting area has been cleared of weeds and that mulch is present throughout. Leave this mulch in place for overwintering, only pulling it back when spring growth appears. Avoid watering unless soil is dry deeper than a couple inches down. When you do water, do not pour directly onto plants. Some people prefer to cut away flowering scapes but others do not. This is something that can go either way according to personal preference as the yield will likely be close to the same.
Different types of garlic will be mature enough for harvest at different times. Because of this, be sure to make note of the type you planted and when it should be harvest ready according to your zone. The warmer your climate, the faster garlic will grow and likewise it will grow more slowly in cooler climates. The ideal time to harvest garlic is when leaves turn yellow and begin to flop over sideways. Do not let leaves fall completely into the dirt, however, as it is when the leaves are allowed to flop over that fungus could become a problem. Be sure to harvest before this has a chance to occur. Garlic will bruise easy so handle it will care during harvest then place in a warm, dry location to cure.
Since garlic is easy to grow, it is possible that you will end up with enough to last a while and you will therefore need to store it. The ideal temperature for garlic storage is between 60 to 70 degrees. Garlic should be kept out of the sun but in an area with good air flow and moderate humidity. Open air and room temperature are important as garlic will start to sprout when it gets too cold and a lack of air flow will cause premature spoilage. Because of this, storing garlic in baskets without lids in a central location within your home is best.
By growing your own garlic, you will have it at the ready to enjoy. There are many meals and dishes which garlic compliments or you can even enjoy garlic on its own by roasting it in the oven. Why buy processed garlic from the store when you can grow some that tastes even better at home? With fall fast approaching, the time has come to get that garlic in the garden so that will spring springs, so will your garlic.
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