While it might seem like there’s nothing worth growing over the long winter months, garlic is the perfect contender. When planted in the fall, garlic continues to grow throughout winter.
Perfect for small-space gardeners, garlic is easy to grow in containers on sunny balconies or porches. So start planting now and look forward to fresh, homegrown garlic in the months ahead.
Grow Garlic in a Container
Step 1: Prepare the garlic.
Mid-autumn is the ideal time to plant garlic. Break the head of a garlic bulb apart, keeping the papery skin on the cloves. Only plant the largest cloves, and use the smaller ones for cooking. Grocery store garlic is often treated to prevent sprouting, so be sure to use seed or organic garlic.
Step 2: Fill planter.
Choose a container at least 18 inches deep and 12 inches wide. Garlic appreciates well-draining soil, so add a mixture of 50 percent potting soil, 25 percent perlite and 25 percent peat moss to the planter. Mix in compost, or an all-purpose slow-release granulated balanced fertilizer according to directions.
Step 3: Plant garlic.
Poke planting holes 3 inches deep, 2 inches in from the edges of the container, and 4 to 6 inches apart. Place garlic cloves in the holes with the pointy side up, and cover. Water and place in a spot that receives at least six hours of sunlight a day.
Step 4: Care and harvesting In cold climates.
Cover the garlic with mulch or straw over winter. When temperatures rise above freezing in the spring, remove the mulch, and keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged. If you’re growing hardneck garlic that produces long, curly scapes in spring, cut these stalks as far down as you can without cutting off any leaves. This prevents the garlic from using its energy to produce flowers. Plus, garlic scapes are edible and delicious!
In the summer, when a third of the leaves have yellowed, it’s time to harvest. Dig around the head of the garlic to verify that it’s about the size of a store-bought bulb. If it’s large enough, lift the garlic out of the soil with your hands to avoid bruising the bulb. After harvest, brush off the dirt.
Use immediately or leave the stalks intact and hang garlic to dry and cure in a cool, dark place for several weeks. The garlic is cured when the wrappers are dry and papery and the roots are dry. Several heads of softneck garlic can be braided together for storage, and then you can cut off individual heads as you need them.
Tip: Place containers in a sunny spot in the kitchen for easy access to fresh ingredients while cooking.