Garden Spaces: Grow a Garlic Garden

Grow garlic garden with all the kissin’ cousins in the family and enjoy the ease of harvest and braiding garlic.

| October/November 2011

  • Click on the IMAGE GALLERY, then NEXT for the planting key.
    Illustration by Gayle Ford
  • Click on the IMAGE GALLERY, then NEXT for the planting key.
    Illustration by Gayle Ford
  • garlic
    Store root crops like garlic and onions in a cool, dark spot in the pantry.
    Unsplash/tobias

  • garlic

If you had to choose only one herb or vegetable to be marooned with on an island, it’s not difficult to predict which one you’d probably choose. Garlic, right? It’s both an herb and a vegetable, it’s loaded with health-promoting benefits, it enhances the flavor of almost any dish imaginable (so you can use it liberally every day) and it’s downright delicious. Hands down, garlic wins.

Garlic (Allium sativum) belongs to a whole tribe of plants (the Allium family) that is absolutely indispensable in the kitchen, from onions and scallions to chives and garlic chives, shallots and leeks. And there are many varieties of garlic available—from the top-setting rocambole to purple-skinned varieties, as well as other species such as the huge, mild elephant garlic. This little garden bed is designed to hold them all, with a fringe of some of the herbs that go particularly well with the robust flavors of this genus.

Garlic is most often planted in the fall, while many of its relatives go into the garden in late winter or early spring, and some, such as chives, are perennial. All these plants are easy to grow, they don’t take much garden space, and their strappy leaves provide a textural contrast when tucked into any herb or flower bed. But the beauty of growing them all together is the ease of harvest, particularly if this bed is conveniently close to the kitchen door so the chefs of the family have ready access.

Preparing and Planting Alliums

Garlic and onions need good drainage so they’re not sitting in heavy, damp soil. Choose a full-sun location for your allium bed. If you have heavy clay, spend some time preparing the bed, adding composted organic matter and aged manure and working that into the soil to lighten it—or consider raising the bed a bit to improve drainage in soggy soil. Do this work a month or so before your first hard freeze, usually September or October.



If you have sandy soil, compost helps here as well, as garlic and onions are fairly heavy feeders, and compost helps sandy soil retain nutrients to support their growth and development.

In the warmer zones of the United States, individual garlic cloves are usually planted an inch or two deep, with the pointy end up. In zones colder than about Zone 5, plant them a little deeper—say 4 inches down to help protect them through the winter. Garlic is planted in the fall because it can develop a larger head after a period of long cold; in the coldest climates, plant them in early spring. A good covering of mulch also helps.



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