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Garlic is easy to grow in a home garden. You do not need a huge amount of space or any special type of soil to grow garlic. If you continue to harvest and re-seed, the garlic you grow will adapt to your soil type, increasing the yearly yield of your plants. Garlic is not grown from seed; the edible cloves are planted in the ground and sprout, growing into complete bulbs over time. Once harvested, your garlic can be used for cooking and will stay fresh for a long time.
Start planting garlic by choosing the best seed cloves. When you are planting garlic, the size of the individual clove is more important than the size of the overall bulb. Gently divide the bulb into individual cloves as you would if you were planning on cooking the garlic. Plant the garlic 2 inches deep in garden soil. The pointed end of each clove should be pointed up for best results.
Garlic should be planted in the fall, making it an ideal crop to put in the ground when your summer garden is done. Planting garlic in the fall allows it to grow underground all winter, producing robust bulbs by spring. Once planted, the garlic won't need any special care until the spring, when you can simply keep the soil moist and watch the garlic tops grow.
Planting garlic in the fall means you should be ready to harvest by mid-summer, depending on your growing zone. Stop watering the garlic about a month before you want to harvest it. The tops will turn brown and dry out; this is normal. When you think the garlic is ready, gently dig around the base of one plant with a spoon or rounded spade. Pull out the garlic and inspect the bulb to see if it is ready.
Bulbs of garlic that are ready to harvest will be compact with a paper covering and have large, well-defined individual cloves. If the garlic bulb you have removed looks ready to eat, then you can harvest the rest of the patch. Cure your garlic by brushing away the dirt and hanging the garlic to dry. Multiple bulbs can be braided together to conserve space if desired. Once dry, garlic will store well for six to nine months in the home pantry or other cool location.
After your garlic is cured, select the biggest and best bulbs and save them for planting garlic in the fall. Choosing garlic seed stock from your existing harvest means you will never have to buy garlic or seed again. You will also increase the quality and yield of your garden by planting garlic from your own seeds each year. The garlic will slowly adapt to thrive in your home soil.