Thursday, October 10, 2013

Growing Garlic Indoors (and Out) in Containers

Garlic is one of the most commonly used ingredients in the kitchen, and it's really easy to grow at home in containers.

Like with all crops, it's important to grow garlic that is ideal for your climate.  There are 2 main types of garlic, hardneck and softneck.  For indoor gardening you will want to grow softneck garlic, because it is able to grow well in milder climates (indoors) and typically matures faster.  Softneck garlic is commonly what you find at the grocery store.  Hardneck garlic is a lot more flavorful, grows a hard woody stem which later develops scapes, and grows better in northern climates where the tempertaure gets below freezing in the winter.  Hardneck garlic will not grow well indoors.

We're growing a softneck variety, California Early White (Artichoke garlic), which we picked up when we were in Gilroy, CA (the garlic capital of the world, AKA: Heaven), and a hardneck variety, German White (Porcelain garlic) that we got from a farm in Sullivan County, NY.  The California Early White will stay indoors all winter, while we'll put the German White outdoors over the winter so it can get a freeze.

What you need:

- Soil with good drainage, preferably with a decent nutrient charge so you don't have to do as much work by adding your own nutrients from the start.  We like Roots Organics' Original Potting Soil.  If you prefer to add your own nutrients/fertilizer, Canna's Terra Professional Plus works well.

- Containers.  Garlic is a bulb so most of the growing is done below the surface of the soil.  You want a container that's at least 12" deep and wide enough to space the seeds 4" away from each other and the sides of your containers.  For 7-8 bulbs, we recommend 7 Gallon Root Pots from Aurora Innovations.  We like the root pots because they have a good width & depth and allow for the roots and bulbs to get air (garlic can be prone to fungus if the soil is too wet and the bulbs/roots can't breathe).

- Garlic Seed.  You can purchase seed garlic from a seed company (we like High Mowing Seeds, they're organic and we sell their fruit and vegetable seeds) or you can purchase garlic from any market or farm.  The garlic you use for cooking is the same garlic you can grow.

- Saucers (optional) - You can use plastic saucers to catch the run-off from when you water your garlic.

- Light.  If you're growing indoors we recommend using a T5 fluorescent fixture.  They don't use much energy and you can put them almost anywhere.  We're using the bottom shelf of a shelving unit to grow our garlic.

- Nutrients/Fertilizer.  Garlic needs to be fertilized.  Even if you start with a pre-charged soil, you will still need to amend with a general purpose fertilizer later on.  For organic gardening while using Roots Organics soil, after about a month we prefer to top dress the soil with some earthworm castings or Super Bat Super Tea (garlic doesn't need much phosphorus or potassium at all, just a moderate amount of nitrogen).  If you prefer liquid fertilizer, Bio Vega from Canna Nutrients works great, too (and it contains no chemicals or animal byproducts).

- Mulch or hay (when growing hardneck garlic outdoors).

Fill containers about 3/4 of the way with soil.

Take your garlic, break off the cloves, DO NOT PEEL.  Plant the cloves with the pointy side upward (root side downward), leaving about four inches between each clove and the sides of the pot.  This will allow enough room for each head of garlic to develop.

Cover cloves with about 1-2 inches of soil, water them (gently, making sure not to disturb the spacing of the garlic), and place them under your grow light.  Make sure to keep your soil moist - not soaked because garic can rot/not produce under very wet conditions.  For hardneck garlic, you may want to get some mulch/hay and cover the top of the container to protect from the cold over the winter. 

With softneck garlic, in a week or two you will begin to see green sprouts coming out of the soil (hardneck garlic tends to sprout a little later, then goes dormant over the winter and new shoots usually start coming up towards the end of the winter/beginning of spring).  Some people like to grow garlic just to cut and eat these shoots (you can use them the same way you would chives) but for the growth of the actual garlic you should leave them alone.  They process light and bring nutrients to the garlic bulbs.

When fertilizing with a dry fertilizer, top dress your soil with your earthworm castings or guano every 3-4 weeks.  Water like usual.  When using Bio Vega, mix the liquid fertilizer into your water once a week and water like usual.

With softneck garlic, in about 7-10 months the leaves will turn yellow and brown and dry out.  When this begins to happen, stop watering.  You want to give them about two weeks to dry out, and then it's time to harvest!  Pull up garlic, brush off soil and allow to dry.  Once dry, softneck garlic can store for 6-10 months (when kept in a cool, dark, dry place). 

Hardneck garlic is a little different.  They produce scapes, which are string-bean-looking things that come out of the center of the plant and curl.  Most people cut these off, because it distributes energy back down to the garlic bulb and tends to produce larger bulbs.  Usually garlic is ready to harvest 2-3 weeks after cutting the scapes (like with softneck garlic, the leaves will start to die).  After harvesting, curing and drying your hardneck garlic, you will need to use it within 2-4 months since it does not have the long shelf life that softneck garlic does.


Here is our garlic 8 months later.

No comments:

Post a Comment