By Cindy Naas
Hi, I live in Boston, Mass. and I would like to grow garlic on my back porch this fall. The time is approaching for the actual planting, but I’m still unsure of what I should plant my garlic in, i.e. how large, how deep,etc. I know that garlic should be about 3 inches below the surface, but how much more depth do I need to accommodate for root growth? Any suggestions for containers? I appreciate any info you can provide. Thanks – Lindsey
Lindsey, that’s an excellent question.
The allium family are all well suited for container growing, and garlic is an especially useful plant to grow in a small garden space.
Not only are the garlic bulbs easy to grow, the greens can be harvested and eaten once before allowing them to finish growing. They are delicious and a very healthy addition to stir-fries or salads.
The most important thing to remember about garlic is that it is absolutely essential to grow it in well-drained soil. If the soil in your container becomes waterlogged, the garlic will rot and will not grow. So, make sure to use potting soil specifically designed for container growing. Urban Garden Casual gives directions for creating your own potting soil, or you can use a commercial blend.
Line the bottom of your planter with a few handsful of pea gravel or small stones. This will ensure good drainage. Then, fill a deep container with potting soil. Add in a few handsful of manure and mix in well. Allow at least 10 inches for growth, as garlic and other alliums need a medium-deep pot.
I use pots which are about 18 inches deep and 2 feet across. A long square window-box type of planter would be good, too, as long as it is at least 8 inches deep.
Plant one clove of garlic 2 inches deep, with the pointy end pointing up. Plant at least 5 inches apart. For a very large plastic planter, I would plant only 4 cloves of garlic. It’s better to plant fewer per container, as crowding them will cause your production to fall. Give them lots of room.
Water in the bulbs after you plant them. Place in the sunniest location in your garden or on your porch. Water them only when the soil seems dry- do not over water. However, make sure that the overhang from your house doesn’t prevent the pots from getting rain and snow during the winter.
In the spring, the greens will shoot up quickly. You can harvest the first batch of young greens to eat in salad or stir-fry. After that, leave the greens alone. However, if the plants begin to flower, cut the flower so the plant will focus on growing more bulbs. Your garlic will be ready to harvest when the green shoots turn brown and wilty. Garlic can be stored in a cool dry place for a month or two.
Another way to store garlic is to freeze it. Simply peel and chop the garlic cloves and then store in small freezer containers. Alternately, you can roast it and store that in the freezer, as roasted garlic is a wonderful addition to soups, stews, pasta and veggie dishes, and even just smeared on some fresh hot bread. Here is how to roast garlic:
For each head of garlic, slice a thin slice off the top, just exposing the tops of the cloves. Drizzle a little olive oil over the top, salt lightly if desired, and then wrap the head in foil. Bake at 400 F for 20 minutes or so, until garlic is very fragrant and tender.
Allow to cool, and then squeeze the bulb into a small dish. I usually roast 10 or more heads at a time if I am going to freeze it, and then I freeze it 3 tablespoons at a time in small containers.