Grow Garlic - Feed Your Family & Your Wallet | Making Her Mama
We all know that feeding a growing family is expensive. As moms we work hard to make sure that our food lasts for the week and that we’re making healthy choices. One way to cut down on your grocery budget (especially during the summer months) is to grow a vegetable garden. And one way you can earn extra income is to grow garlic! Seem simple? It really is…
Earn Cash Growing Garlic
Even if you live in the city and don’t have a lot of space, you can grow garlic! It doesn’t actually take a lot of room. Right now we have a strip of soil that is 2 1/2 feet wide and 13 feet long with 88 bulbs of garlic growing in it!
Where we live, garlic sells for around $3-4 a bulb. My initial investment was just under $40 for the planting garlic. (And that was high because I missed out on the seed garlic and had to buy the cream of the crop for a higher price!)
So for $40 I now have a crop growing worth just over $350! And the work on it has been negligible so far. There will be some time input once harvest season comes along. Now, we don’t plan to sell all this garlic this year because I want to feed my family first. And then I want to keep enough garlic to grow our next crop at no additional cost.
But what if you don’t have a green thumb?
Garlic is pretty easy to look after. I even let the chickens out one day, not thinking, and they rummaged through my garlic patch flinging several bulbs here or there. For days afterwards I was finding random garlic bulbs in the garden! I just replanted them and they’ve all alive and growing!
So here’s what you need to know:
Prepare Your Soil
garlic will grow in most soils
it does best though in a well drained soil
add a decent amount of compost to your soil before planting
Picking Seed Garlic
seed garlic are cloves of garlic sold for planting (not seeds as I originally imagined!)
there are many varieties to choose from
most garlic is planted in the fall for a July harvest
Hardneck Garlic vs. Softneck Garlic
There are two major types of garlic; hardneck and softneck
Hardneck garlic has a flowering stalk that grow up from the middle, has a more intense garlic flavour and produces bulbils (tiny garlic bulbs from the flower that can be used for growing), and usually have a single layer of cloves ranging from 4-12 / bulb
Some common varieties include german white, german red, & russian red
Softneck garlic has a subtler flavour, lack the flowering stalk or “neck”, and produce a higher number of bulbs (around 8-20 per clove) that are irregularly shaped and in 2 or more layers
Most varieties found in your local supermarket are softneck
Some common varieties include early Italian Red and Nootka Rose
As with all gardening; the best type of garlic to choose is one suited to your climate
Check with local nurseries to find out what grows best in your weather
Hardneck garlics tend to do better in climates with a cold winter and require a bit more care as they need to be hand planted right side up and their scapes need to be trimmed
Softneck garlics grow well in milder climates
Planting Your Garlic
Once you’ve picked your garlic(s) of choice, you have 2 options for planting; fall and spring.
Works well in areas that get a hard frost
Plant bulbs 6-8 weeks before the first frost date
A great choice for milder climates; planting in February or March – as soon as the soil can be worked
Planting Your Garlic
A few days before planting, break the cloves off the bulb – keep the papery skin around each clover intact as much as possible
Plant the cloves with the root (wide end that was connected to the base plate of the garlic) down and the pointed end pointing up
Plant cloves 2 inches deep and space them 4 inches apart
If you planted in the fall; lay a good layer of straw to mulch over top of the bed
Caring for Your Garlic
Once your garlic is in the ground there isn’t much you need to do for it. Early in the Spring you will see the new shoots arise. You also need to remove any mulch on the bed once Spring arrives.
Garlic doesn’t like to compete – weed your bed regularly to achieve the biggest bulbs possible
Garlic loves nitrogen, so fertilize accordingly – watch for yellowing of the leaves – a sign that nitrogen is lacking
From mid-May – June when your plant is bulbing, water every 3-5 days
Cutting flower shoots in early spring helps to grow bigger bulbs
Garlic is pretty hardy and isn’t prone to much disease or pests
Garlic makes an excellent companion plant as it wards off many common pests (like aphids! Plant garlic with roses!)
Watch for white rot – which affects all veggies of the onion family – to avoid make sure you rotate your planting sites from year to year
Harvesting Your Crop
In Northern climates, crops are usually ready for harvest around July or August. In Southern Climates it will depend more on your planting date.
How to tell when to harvest
Watch for yellowing of the tips of the leaves
Watch for the leaves to begin falling over
You want to harvest before the leaves are fully dried out
Check a bulb before harvesting – too early the bulb might be immature, too late and the wrapper may disintegrate
How to harvest your garlic
Loosen the soil around the bulb with a shovel or other garden tool – careful not to get too close to the bulb
Lift the plants from the soil and gently remove as much dirt as possible without disturbing the skin or wrapper
Garlic needs to be cured for storage
Hang garlic in bunches of 4-8 bulbs upside down in a shady area for about 2 weeks
Make sure each bulb has air flow all around it for adequate drying
Garlic is done curing when cloves crack off easily from the bulb, the wrapper becomes paper thin and dry, and the roots are dry
Remove as much dirt from the dried garlic as possible
Cut off the roots of leaves OR alternatively, use them to make a garlic braid
Watch this video by Michael Keida from Let’s DIY on making a garlic braid
Store in a cool, dark, dry place for several months
Uses for Garlic
Garlic is used for many reasons; including, flavouring food, improving health and immunity, disinfectant properties and pest control in the garden to name a few. We love cooking with garlic and add it to many of our meals like Easy Omelets and Gluten Free Homemade breakfast sausage.
How to Make Money Growing Garlic
Determine what the price of garlic is in your area (ask a local farmer/homesteader or check for local garlic at a farmers market)
Set up a small roadside stand with garlic for sale
Sell to your friends and family (Homegrown garlic has incredible flavour! It will keep them coming back for more)
Sell at local farmers markets
Approach local mom and pop type shops to buy your garlic
Approach local restaurants (particularly the head chef) to supply them with garlic
So, growing garlic really is an easy way to provide your family with a healthy healing food and stretch your budget a little further. You don’t need a lot of space or any experience. The start up costs are small. I can’t wait to harvest our first crop and let you know how it goes!
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What about you? Are you ready to grow some garlic?