|Garlic (Allium sativum)|
Garlic is one of the most widely used herbs world wide. Most cultures and cuisines include the use of garlic in some form. The herbal medicine community claims it has a variety of anti-microbial properties, and don't forget that garlic wards off the roving vampire and werewolf in your neighborhood. ;) All jesting aside, garlic is a popular herb in both the kitchen and the medicine cabinet and is a great addition to any herb or kitchen garden!
Garlic belongs to the genus Allium along with onion and chives. It is divided into two subspecies that are easily separated based on where they grow. The soft neck sub-species is grown closer to the equator while the hardneck is grown in colder climates. For those of us in the northern latitudes of the United States there is no question that the subspecies of choice for us would be hardneck (Allium sativum sub. sativum).
Garlic is cold tolerant but requires a longer growing season to produce a bulb of decent size so it is recommended that garlic be planted 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes in northern climates. By planting a month or so before freezing, the roots are able to establish and it is ready to start growth as soon as the soil warms up in the spring. In very cold locations (like most of North Dakota!) you may want to cover with several inches of mulch to prevent winter kill, but be ready to clear the mulch in late winter/early spring.
Garlic are versatile and can be planted in most any soil but prefer soil with a high organic material content. Select a location that is mostly sunny and incorporate 4-6 inches of compost in the top 12 inches before planting the largest garlic cloves about 2 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart. All of the literature I read said to not separate the cloves from the bulb until you are ready to plant.
Harvest garlic when the tops start to dry out. Let them dry out (cure) for several days before storing them. Store harvested garlic in a cool but dry location. Garlic can be pickled in vinegar or wine for long term storage, but do not store in oil as it can breed botchilism.
Have you grown garlic before? I'd love to hear about it.
Happy Gardening! :)