Growing Garlic Indoor Growing vs Outdoor Planting

Edited by Sarah Maloney, Eng

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Gastronomic Riddle: What do Chinese Fried Rice, Mussels steamed in white wine, Aioli, Bruschetta and Shrimp Scampi all have in common? Garlic. The versatile little herb that is an essential member of most North American kitchens. The smell of garlic cooking is enough to throw me back into culinary contemplation of some of the most scrumptious meals I've had all containing the flexibly fragrant little bulb.

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I used to buy my garlic in the store. Sometimes in bulbs, sometimes when I was lazy in the little jars they sell in the cold produce section. A few years ago, I stopped by my parents in the summer and watched as my Dad was harvesting the bulbs he'd planted the previous fall. I couldn't believe how many he had and how incredible they looked. Fat, plump bulbs with dazzling green shoots, he laid them in the sun to dry and fairly easily had a supply of garlic to get through the winter for all my Mum's garlic infused cuisine. That's it, I thought. Next fall, I'm growing garlic!

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But I couldn't wait. As I crept like a cat-burglar down into their cold cellar throughout the winter to pilfer the bulbous pieces of culinary deliciousness I decided to grow garlic before the fall indoors. Many articles and reviews online report unsuccessfully results, but as a bulb enthusiast I can show you how to successfully grow whole garlic bulbs indoors and provide instructions on growing your own garlic outdoors in the fall.

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Method 1: Indoor Growing

Preparation for Growing Indoors

  1. 1
    Debunking the Myths
    .
    If you do a Google search you will find a lot of articles that tell you to grab some garlic cloves, plunk them in a pot and in a few months you'll have new bulbs. This is blatantly untrue and these instructions match the many unsuccessful reports by those who have tried it. The reason it is not true is because garlic is a bulb. If you read my article on Plant Tulip Bulbs in the Winter you are already a bulb connoisseur and know that the reason gardeners plant bulbs in the Fall is because bulbs need the winter dormancy while they develop their roots. So if you want to successfully grow whole garlic bulbs you need to give them artificial dormancy. Gardeners call this "Forced" growing; essentially tricking bulbs that need the winter chill to bloom indoors.
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  2. 2
    The Right Bulbs
    .
    It is essential that you buy your garlic bulbs from a garden store, an online retailer or grab a bulb or two from someone who has grown them in their backyard (don't call my Dad, I get all his). The bulbs will look exactly like the ones you buy in the store but the ones in the store are often treated with chemicals and will not grow at all or will grow unsatisfactory. If you have a Farmer's Market in your community you can try there, often they have broken bulbs that you can get at a discounted price. Just ensure they are untreated with chemicals and the bulbs and skins are still intact. If you don't want to force your own bulbs, you can also buy pre-chilled "forced" bulbs from retailers, have a look online. Do try to find bulbs with larger cloves, these will generate more energy and in turn generate larger bulbs.
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  3. 3
    Forced Bulbs
    .
    Just like tulips, you want to give your garlic bulbs an artificial chilling process. To do this you want to throw them in the fridge. You don't want to freeze them. Put the bulbs in a brown paper bag, identify them if necessary, close it the bag tightly (use tape or staples) and store it in your fridge. The preferred placement is in the produce section. You want to maintain a temperature of 40-50F, or 10C. Chill your bulbs for 12 to 14 weeks. I repeat, if you do not chill or force your bulbs before planting they will not grow bulbs. You will get greens, but you will not get bulbs.
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Plant Your Forced Bulbs

Once your bulbs are forced (chilled) they are ready to plant.

Materials

  • 1-2 Forced (chilled) garlic bulbs. You actually plant each clove so although you can plant more than 1-2 bulbs you will need a lot of space.
  • Potting Soil. Don't cheap out here, you want to get high quality soil preferably soil that is three parts garden loam, two parts peat moss and one part sand.
  • Pot. At least 8" deep with holes for drainage.
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  • Planting tools.

Steps

  1. 1
    Fill your pot with potting soil leaving about 1" or 2" room at the top
    .
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  2. 2
    Separate the cloves on your bulb
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    Do not take the skin off of the cloves
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    .
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  3. 3
    Place each clove about 4"-6" apart and about 1" deep into the soil
    .
    Ensure the pointy side is up.
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  4. 4
    Water your pot until water begins to come out of the drainage hole
    .
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  5. 5
    Place your pot somewhere that will receive 6-8 hours of sunlight (full sun) a day
    .
    The kitchen window ledge is a great spot.
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Harvesting and Curing

  1. 1
    In about a week you will see greens or scapes begin to sprout from your garlic
    .
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    These are edible and delicious. Milder than the garlic bulb, these can be utilized as you would chives. Once they are 6"-10" tall you can cut these and use them in salads, soups, eggs or on top of baked potatoes with sour cream. Clipping these also moves the energy from the leaves and into the bulbs.
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  2. 2
    After about 16 weeks you will begin to see large greens rising to the surface
    .
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  3. 3
    After about 32 weeks your bulbs will be ready to harvest
    .
    You will know they are ready to harvest when the greens start to turn brown (much as they do with other bulb flowers). Simply pull your garlic out, and place them somewhere dark for drying (basement or garage). You can lay them flat or make a garlic braid for drying.
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  4. 4
    After they are thoroughly dry (about 2 weeks), cut off the greens, leave a small stem and do not remove the skin.
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  5. 5
    Invest in mesh bags as they are ideal for storing
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    Keep them in a cool dark place. They should keep for 6-8 months.
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Tips and Tricks

  • Keep your pots watered maintaining a moist growing environment. The pot should never feel too wet or too dry.
  • Save some of your larger bulbs for fall planting outside.
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  • Although garlic takes time to grow inside, the greens make for ongoing deliciousness and motivation.
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Method 2: Outdoor Planting

Planting Garlic Outside in the Fall

The steps here are very similar to the indoor steps. You do not need force or chilled bulbs if you are planting in the fall. You can use bulbs you've purchased from your local greenhouse or if you have a crop from the winter you grew indoors choose plump bulbs to grow your outdoor garden.

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Steps

  1. 1
    Choose an area of your garden that can be occupied through the winter and into the summer
    .
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  2. 2
    Plant 3-6 weeks before the first frost
    .
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  3. 3
    Soil should already be worked and should contain loam as well as heavy organic material or manure
    .
    This will provide the nutrients needed through the cold winter.
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  4. 4
    Choose plump bulbs from the garden supply store or your previous harvest with good color
    .
    Avoid bulbs with spots.
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  5. 5
    Crack your bulbs and separate the cloves
    .
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  6. 6
    Plant the cloves with the pointy side up
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  7. 7
    Space your garlic in either single or double row maintaining 4"-6" inches apart
    .
    The closer you place the cloves to each other the smaller your bulbs will be.
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  8. 8
    Mulch the are of your garden with the garlic to maintain temperature and provide shelter through the winter
    .
    Falls leaves chopped up, grass clippings and alfalfa hay are some of the best mulch. Straw is not recommended as it can host mice and wheat curl mite which will feast on the cloves.
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  9. 9
    Mid-summer (July) you will see your garlic has vivid greens and you might even see some bulbs starting pushing up
    .
    The leaves closer to the bulb should be turning brown. Carefully remove some soil and inspect the bulbs. If you can feel the bump of the bulbs your garlic is ready to harvest.
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  10. 10
    About a month before your bulbs are ready to harvest, you will see the greens or the scapes begin to curl
    .
    Once they curl they are ready to be cut and can be used deliciously as you would chives. Clipping the scapes will also yield larger bulbs as it will direct energy into the bulbs rather than the leaves. You don't have to cut these. If you leave them they will eventually grow flowers with seeds. You can harvest the seeds.
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Harvesting and Curing

  1. 1
    Garlic is thin-skinned, so carefully remove them by hand
    .
    Be careful of using gardening tools as they can rip the skin. Garlic with ripped skins will not keep as well.
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  2. 2
    Leave the greens and leaves on the garlic
    .
    You can place them outside but away from direct sunlight and protected from the rain. Garlic can get sunburned so resist the urge to place it directly in the sunlight.
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  3. 3
    Ideally, hang the garlic in bunches of 4-6 in a sheltered open shed for about two weeks
    .
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  4. 4
    After they are thoroughly dry (about 2 weeks)
    .
    Clip off the greens, leave a small stem and do not remove the skin.
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  5. 5
    Invest in mesh bags as they are ideal for storing
    .
    Keep them in a cool dark place. Your garlic should keep for 6-8 months.
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Tips and Tricks

  • Don't forget your greens. You will see them sprout mid-summer through harvest. Clip them as needed to add flavour to your summer barbeques.
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  • Check out garlic braiding. Once you get the hang of it, these are pretty easy to do and make really intricate designs that when given as a gift look luxurious and time consuming.
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  • Don't forget pickling. Pickled garlic is fantastic and garlic can be used as an addition to many pickled products.
  • Once you have harvested and cooked with your own garlic you won't go back to the store bought stuff. Find different types and experiment with your planting assortment.
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If you have problems with any of the steps in this article, please post in the comments section below.

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Categories : Gardening

Recent edits by: Sarah Maloney

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