“One in a pod, when dismembered and earthed
Shall grow to be many, a truth I unearthed”
Garlic is a rooting herb. There are various types of garlic – hardneck, softneck and elephant garlic. The first type is most commonly seen in Mumbai markets. It is a wonder food with amazing medicinal properties, easy to grow and (hush!) is considered highly effective in warding off vampires……
SEASONS: Garlic is a seasonal plant. It prefers a temperate and dry climate but will grow in Mumbai without too much protest. It’s a slow growing crop and can be cultivated through the year.
PROPAGATING: This plant is easily propagated from seed or from bulb segments, commonly called garlic cloves. It is very easy to propagate through the latter method. It also self-seeds for the next season, if left to flower.
GERMINATING: Sow garlic seeds or plant its cloves year round, keeping in mind that its growth will slow down in winter and it needs dry conditions prior to harvesting. Ideally therefore, aim to germinate in early June for planting out by late June and full harvest by December. Alternatively, aim to germinate in early January for planting out by late January to obtain a pre-monsoon harvest. Sow seeds using the germination tray method by scattering seeds in soft, well-composted soil with a handful of soil spread above. Then place in semi-shade and water daily until seedlings emerge in 7-15 days.
PLANTING OUT: Transplant garlic seedlings after 2 weeks of growth while being careful not to disturb the root ball too much. If transplanting or planting out garlic bulbs, then loosen the soil at least 12 inches below the planting spot and add some manure and compost to it. Choose undamaged garlic cloves and plant root-downward, point-upward about 2 inches below the soil and 6 inches apart. Garlic will grow in slightly acidic or slightly alkaline soils, but neutral soils seem best for growing out bigger bulbs. Some compost, manure and good drainage is important for root health and vitality. It’s also a good idea to plant garlic alongside fruiting veggies like tomatoes, peppers, okra and brinjals, as its strong aroma and antiseptic qualities ward off harmful pests and enhance the growth of its companion plants. Garlic will grow well on open plots or containers.
NURTURING: Planted root segments will spring shoots within 3 days. Garlic is a quick and extremely cooperative grower in its early stages. It is never preyed on by squirrels, rodents, birds or other pests. It will pretty much take care of itself as long as you water it and weed around it regularly. Water your garlic plants until its leaves start yellowing at maturity. Then leave to dry out for about 2 weeks before harvesting.
HARVESTING: You can harvest garlic for its shoots for stir fries, scapes/flowering tendrils for pestos, and its roots for general cooking and medicinal purposes. Harvest shoots at any stage of plant growth. Harvest scapes as they form, to encourage root growth. Root harvesting is done when the plant shows signs of dying with the yellowing and drying of its leaves. Once this occurs, stop watering for 2 weeks, and then dig out the entire plant. Avoid breaking it at stem while harvesting, as it will then rot in storage. Fresh garlic can be tied up in bundles and left to dry out thoroughly for use over a long-term. Flowers of garlic plants can also be harvested for their seeds within, or left undisturbed to spread and self-seed in the surrounding earth. Once you have cleared out your harvest, replenish the soil and use that space for growing leafing or fruiting veggies.
Garlic shoots at 1 month of growth, and at 4 months of growth
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