Walk into any decent Italian restaurant and take a deep breath. That warm spicy aroma tingling your nose is quite likely garlic. The incomparable deep flavor makes Italian dishes renowned, but also enhances any number of other recipes.
You can bring this culinary delight into your own kitchen through bulbs of garlic purchased at a box store, often imported from China, but why do that when garlic is so easy to grow?
If you are interested in growing your own garlic, now is the time to order. It is somewhat counter-intuitive, but garlic is one of those plants designed to spend winter nestled in the cold earth.
How to Choose Garlic
There are two basic types of garlic and a number of varieties within those types. Like any other plant, the specific varieties have different advantages in terms of flavor, storage, etc.
Hard Neck Garlic
These bulbs of garlic are different from the kind you normally find available in the store. The bulb forms a hard center stem that grows up through the bulb to support the leaves. When you open the bulb, there are typically 6 or 8 cloves of garlic around this center stem. The cloves are full and large. Varieties include Music, Bogatyr, and German Red.
Soft Neck Garlic
This garlic does not form the hard center stem. Softer leaves shoot out of the middle and many cloves form around this center. The outer cloves are reasonably sized with smaller ones near the center. Even the outer cloves do not attain the size of the hard neck types mentioned above. Varieties include Inchelium Red and Burgundy.
Soft neck garlic can be stored in braids by leaving the stems attached and braiding decoratively to hang.
After you receive your garlic bulbs, either through a mail order supplier or somewhere local, do not remove the papery outer cover. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry place until ready to plant, then peel off the outer covering and separate the cloves, leaving each clove cloaked in its paper cover.
Choose a sunny location that is well drained with rich soil. You will need 6-8 inches of space per plant. Push each clove into the soil approximately 2 inches deep with the pointed end up. Cover with soil and mulch.
In Central Illinois, mid-October is a typical planting time, with harvest the following June.
If you have questions about planting garlic or any of the other crops grown at Five Feline Farm, you can contact us through social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter) or email. In the meantime, be sure to check out our online Mercantile for other available products.