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Growing garlic can be the best health decision you can make. It is one of the best natural supplements for your immune system and is a breeze to grow indoors and outdoors. You can even grow hydroponic garlic with the right setup.
One of the great benefits of growing garlic yourself is having a neverending supply of natural organic garlic at your disposal. This is especially helpful during those cold, wet winter months when you are more likely to get sick, and less likely to want to go out shopping.
In this article, we will take you through:
- What are the Benefits of Garlic?
- How Growing Your own Garlic Helps The Environment and Saves You Money
- Is it Easy to Grow Garlic Indoors?
- Hydroponic Garlic: How to Grow Garlic Without Soil
- What are the Different Types of Garlic?
- When is the Best Time to Plant and Grow Garlic?
- Our 10 Simple Steps to Grow Your Own Garlic
What are the Benefits of Garlic?
Garlic is a vegetable from the Allium family. It is an excellent source of vitamin B6, as well as other vitamins and minerals including Manganese, Selenium, vitamin C, and Allicin (an anti-oxidant).
Eating garlic regularly may help reduce high blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as offering cancer-preventing properties.
Garlic as a flavor enhancer is definitely a healthier alternative than salt. Consuming raw fresh garlic is highly considered for fighting off infections, which may include the common cold.
If you are interested in other natural health supplements to help you beat colds and flu – check out my post on the benefits of Blackstrap Molasses.
Why Should I Grow My Own Garlic? How Does this Benefit Me and the Environment?
The first benefit of growing your own garlic is control. You will know where your garlic is being grown and what it is being fed.
Commercial growers, unless they are formally recognized as Organic farmers, are likely to use harmful pesticides to protect their precious crops. The laws regarding the use of these chemicals may vary greatly from country to country.
The second benefit is that Garlic is in demand all year round. As a result, it’s also a pretty expensive vegetable.
If the garlic cannot be grown locally (usually during the off-season) it will be imported from overseas, often increasing the price.
Shipping imported food also generates greenhouse gases from the burning of fuel to fly or ship the product to your local supermarket. All of these substances eventually end up in your food and in your body.
By growing your own garlic not only can you save money, but you can save your health and the environment as well.
How easy is it to grow garlic indoors? Can they grow in a container?
Garlic grows in small bulbs, therefore you don’t have the size restrictions you may face with tree or vine based produce like tomatoes or apples. This makes garlic ideal to grow indoors.
Planting in a garden with the correct soil does tend to produce the best yields, but you can definitely grow a good crop of garlic in a container garden or a raised garden bed. Growing your garlic indoors also protects your garlic crop from pests like onion thrips and root maggots.
I can’t emphasize how much garlic loves sunlight, so growing your crop in a window sill planter is a great space saving option.
Hydroponic Garlic: How to grow Garlic Indoors without Soil
Can you grow garlic hydroponically? The answer is yes, you can grow garlic indoors without using soil. Using hydroponics, garlic shoots can be planted in water without soil. But to grow to full maturity it is easier to replant the shoots in soil so they can absorb all the nutrients they need.
How to Grow Garlic Hydroponically
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These systems are great for growing indoors, as you can control the flow and nutrients in the water (which is also acting as the soil) as well as the sunlight with artificial UV lights.
However, if you’re a hydroponics amateur, garlic can be a little tricky to grow. This is because it prefers well-drained soil, and its leaves and roots grow quite long. The leaves may get plenty of sunlight as they grow upwards towards the light, but the roots may not get enough and start to rot.
Garlic chives are actually one of the easiest plants to grow in a hydroponic garden, as they require a lot more water than regular garlic to grow. If you just want to grow enough to add a bit of green garnish to your cooking, chives may be an easy alternative. Simply Hydro have a great tutorial on growing hydroponic chives here.
Here is some of the key information you need to grow hydroponic garlic:
- Growing Time: 40 days to grow a bulb. Approx. 6 months to split into cloves.
- Best pH Levels: 6.0 to 7.5
- From Seed or Cutting: From cutting. You can grow garlic using a clove. Put the clove in water first until it starts growing small roots, and then transplant to your hydroponic setup.
- Best Time of Year to Grow: Start in the cooler months to grow your first bulb.
- Sunlight Required: Plenty of Sunlight. Minimum 14-16 hours per day is preferred.
- Temperature: 32 to 50 Degrees Fahrenheit (0 to 10 degrees Celsius)
- Varieties to Grow: Elephant Garlic
How to Grow Hydroponic Garlic: 8 Simple Steps
1. Pick the Right Hydroponic System
Not all hydroponic systems are suitable for growing garlic. Garlic prefers a dry and cool growing environment, so you want to use a system that won’t saturate the plants with water. For this reason, an Ebb and Flow hydroponic system usually isn’t appropriate unless you’re up for a real challenge.
You are better to try growing garlic in an NFT system (Nutrient Film Technique). This system allows the water to drain through better, as the tray that the water flows through is set up at a downward angle. If the system is set up correctly, the roots should only lightly touch the water. As a result this prevents the roots from becoming oversaturated and rotten.
Like many hydroponic systems, the nutrient-rich water in an NFT system is continuously recycled. This is great as the water and nutrient solution will not go to waste.
2. Select a Suitable Spot
Growing hydroponic garlic indoors requires a space in your home that isn’t needed for a number of months, as garlic is a slow-growing plant. Garlic can also be quite smelly as it grows, so separating it from the rest of your home is recommended.
The garlic plant also needs a controlled environment to flourish. It prefers cool, dry conditions for most of its growing period. You may also want to keep it separate from other plants to avoid the spread of indoor pests.
One idea is to invest in an indoor grow tent if you are looking to separate your crop from the rest of the home.
Indoor grow tents are designed to work as an indoor greenhouse. As a result, it is a space where you can control the amount of light, temperature, and moisture that your plants are exposed to.
If you are interested in learning more about these tents, you can read our article here on choosing the best indoor grow tent for your space.
3. Select the Best Growing Medium
To grow hydroponic garlic, you need a suitable growing medium. In an NFT hydroponic system, the cloves are planted into the growing medium, and the roots dangle into the running water below. Some recommended growing mediums include:
Clay pebbles are a very common hydroponic growing medium. They are also known as Hydroton or LECA pebbles (light expanded clay aggregate). They are cost-effective and not messy to use, as the pebbles are quite large. Like perlite, they can hold large pockets of oxygen and keeps the plant’s roots nice and dry. It is a renewable and sustainable medium, that is easy to plant and harvest from.
Perlite is a highly porous volcanic mineral, is common in both hydroponic and soil-based gardening. It’s great for drainage, and it’s lightweight and easy to handle. It’s inorganic, and there it’s stable, doesn’t break down, and won’t transfer any diseases to your garlic plants. Its PH level is also similar to what is required for garlic at 6.5 to 7.5.
Coconut Coir or Coconut Fiber
Coconut Coir is also known as Coco Coir or Coconut Fiber. It is made from the fibers that are torn from coconut shells. There are three types of Coco Coir – Coco Pith, Coco Fibers, and Coco Chips. Coco fibers are the least absorbent and allow a lot of oxygen to reach the roots of the plant, which is beneficial for growing garlic. If using the fiber by itself is too dry, you may want to experiment with mixing it with other growing mediums.
4. Get the Right Growing Lights
Sunlight is very important for garlic to grow. To generate enough energy to grow a proper bulb, garlic needs roughly at least 14 to 16 hours of strong artificial sunlight per day. This amount of light will help a clove replicate itself into a proper bulb of garlic.
On the other hand, garlic also needs a set period of darkness to continue to grow. Getting the balance right between light and darkness is super important for a slow-growing plant like garlic. This effect is called photoperiodism.
The easiest way to control and monitor the amount of light your hydroponic garlic is receiving is by using grow lights. If you are growing your garlic indoors, this is especially important. As it’s likely that you won’t have as much exposure to natural sunlight as garlic normally would outdoors.
LED Grow Lights for Growing Hydroponic Garlic
Grow lights are very commonly used in hydroponic systems. The most popular type of grow lights on the market are LED hydroponic grow lights. LEDs have various advantages including that they are very cost-effective and power-efficient.
There are a wide variety of hydroponic LED grow lights available on the market. You can get a variety of different types of lights to suit your growing space. For example, you can get hanging lights, floor standing lights, or even desktop lights for very small indoor gardens.
LED grow lights also offer bulbs in different colors. Each color can promote growth at different stages of the plant’s lifecycle. Specific colors can also aid the growth of certain plants, for example, red bulbs for fruiting and flowering plants.
LED grow lights also don’t get very hot, which is great for growing garlic as it prefers a cold and dry environment.
For growing hydroponic garlic indoors, I would recommend a full-color spectrum light that incorporates all colors to stimulate growth along the garlic’s full lifecycle.
Most LED grow lights also include a wide variety of controls to help you manage the light cycle required to grow hydroponic garlic. A dimmer switch is very useful, and preset controls allow your light to automatically turn on and off at specific times of day.
5. Germinate the Clove
Growing garlic is much easier with a clove instead of seeds. To germinate a clove you can put it into a shallow glass of water to grow the roots. Once the roots are roughly 1cm long, the clove should be ready to replant into your hydroponic system. Don’t soak the garlic clove for too long, as it may start to rot, and make sure it receives plenty of strong sunlight.
6. Plant the Clove
Once the roots are the right length, you can re-plant the cloves into your hydroponic system. Push the cloves into your growing medium approximately 4 inches deep, but ensure that the roots will be able to touch the water/ nutrient solution flowing through below.
If you are growing all the cloves in one big tray, space them out around 8 inches apart. The pointy end of the clove should be pointing upwards, and the roots pointing down.
7. Growing hydroponic Garlic Bulbs
Keeping your Garlic Well-fertilized:
Fertilizing garlic in a hydroponic system is as important as it is when you plant garlic in soil. The key difference is that your garlic plants will be dependent on the nutrient solution that you add to the water, instead of drawing nutrients from soil.
It’s important that your nutrient solution is able to replicate the key nutrients that your garlic would normally receive from soil. This includes making sure it is getting enough nitrogen at the beginning of its growing process. Phosphorus is also critical for root development and potassium for growing healthy leaves and bulbs. Sulfur is a key nutrient for the later growth stages, as it promotes the development of Allium, one of the active compounds in garlic.
Maintaining the Right PH Levels:
Maintaining the right PH levels is critical for any hydroponic system. Remember that both the growing medium and the nutrient solution need to be within the right range for hydroponic garlic (6.5 to 7.5). You can use a PH testing kit like this one below to easily monitor your PH levels in your hydroponic system:
8. Harvesting Hydroponic Garlic
Harvesting Hydroponic garlic is similar to harvesting garlic from the soil. You can jump to the guide later in this article for more tips on this. One key thing is to make sure that you don’t pick your garlic too early. Your top shoots should mostly have died off, and if you pick the garlic too early you may find that your bulbs are a bit small.
Are there different types of Garlic? Which one is best for me to grow?
There are many different types of Garlic available in the world. The best type will usually be the one that grows the most local to you. In North America, there are two common types:
Hardneck Garlics get their name because they grow a Scape through the center of the garlic bulb. A Scape is a hard long stem that grows a flower at the end. The flower at the end of the scape can be cut off and re-planted to grow more garlic.
A bulb of hardneck garlic typically has between 4-12 cloves of garlic, depending on the species. These cloves are usually an even shape and size. The scape is edible as well.
Hardneck Garlic grows better in colder climates, with the scapes blooming in early summer. There are roughly three different sub-species of this kind of garlic – Rocambole, Purple Skin, and Porcelain.
Within these categories, you can find Spanish Rojas, German Reds, and Whites. Hardneck Garlic is considered by garlic aficionados to have a richer, spicier and more “garlicky” taste.
The softneck variety of garlic, as the name suggests, doesn’t grow a scape. This type of garlic is normally grown in warmer areas with more mild winters.
If you want to create some beautiful garlic braids, this is the variety for you. Softneck bulbs have a higher yield of cloves, but they may not be consistent in shape and size.
Their skin is usually softer and harder to peel than hardneck garlic but can be delicious to cool and consume whole, for example in roast or a barbeque. Silverskins, Artichokes, and Creole garlic are examples of the soft neck types.
When is the best time to plant and harvest Garlic?
Garlic is usually planted in the Autumn or Fall, and harvested in the Midsummer. You can usually start harvesting the scapes in early summer. Once you have harvested the bulb, you will need to be replant, as you will have harvested the whole plant.
Growing Garlic Indoors: 10 Simple Steps to Grow Your Own Garlic
Garlic can easily be grown indoors with the right setup. Here is a simple breakdown of the steps you need to follow to make it happen:
1. Pick The Right Spot
Once you have selected the type of garlic you wish to grow, the next step is to pick the best spot in your home to grow your garlic.
Garlic loves sunlight, therefore growing garlic indoors works best if you can grow it on a windowsill. If this isn’t possible, try to pick the room which gets the most natural light.
During the winter months when the light is least plentiful you may want to consider setting up indoor UV grow lights inside your home to help the growing process.
As I mentioned before in this article, not all garlic grows best in the same climate. Therefore you will need to find a space that keeps a consistent temperature which is appropriate for your plants.
2. Growing Garlic Indoors in a Container
The best containers for growing garlic should around 12 inches deep to make space for the root of the garlic, and allow your plants to sit approximately 6-8 inches apart.
Make sure that the top of the container is nice and open to allow plenty of sunlight to come in. High humidity is not required for growing garlic, so a greenhouse cover is not required.
Proper drainage is important as well. This helps to prevent your garlic from getting Fusarium or other root rot diseases.
Pick a container with plenty of drainage holes and remember to regularly tip out the drainage tray. You can select a plastic tray or ceramic pot for growing similar to this. This material will not affect the growth of your garlic.
3. Select the right soil
Well-drained fertile soil with a neutral pH is the best kind for growing garlic. Most garlic types prefer soil with a neutral pH reading from about 6.5-7.
If your soil is more acidic, you can make it more alkaline by mixing in a small amount of wood ash. Use a mature compost to add fertility to your soil when planting, and add organic mulch like hay or torn up leaves as a top layer.
4. How to Plant Garlic
You can plant garlic from a seed, or from a clove. Planting from a clove is less labor-intensive, and is the easier way to re-plant after your first harvest.
Garlic is a clever plant. Each generation of plant adapts slightly better to the environment it is grown in, so your bulbs and yield improve with each harvest. Wait right up until you are ready to plant before you start peeling your cloves.
The soil you are planting into should already be mixed in well with approximately 1 inch of mature compost. This creates an inviting environment for your garlic to start growing.
Push the cloves into the soil about 4 inches deep and 8 inches apart and cover with organic mulch. The cloves should be planted in the soil the same way up as they sit in the bulb – with the pointy end at the top, and the flat end (where the roots come out) at the bottom.
5. Growing and Protecting from Indoor Pests
As I mentioned earlier, garlic has its own set of predators and diseases which may affect your plant’s growth.
The most common pests are Garlic Thrips. They are tiny bugs that make a small puncture in your garlic bulb to suck out the sap or juice of the bulb. This can weaken the plant and stunt its growth, as well as passing bacteria from the pest to the garlic.
You can spot a Thrip infestation by looking at the leaves of your garlic. If they look scarred or discolored you may have a pest problem.
If you are looking for a natural pest control solution, you can try out this natural pest spray recipe . It contains chili, and would you believe, garlic cloves, as the active ingredient.
Garlic can suffer at the roots as well. Garlic maggots which can start breeding after a few harvests or the roots can get soil-related diseases like Fusarium.
Keeping well-drained soil can help prevent both of these nasties. A sprinkle of Diatomaceous Earth can also help kill pests and create a drier environment for your plant to flourish.
Weeds are an annoyance for any plant owner, but they can be easily dug out in a small container. Just make sure to be delicate with your digging fork, as you don’t want to damage the roots of your garlic plants.
6. Watering Garlic
Garlic plants prefer a fairly dry environment. But they will require a light misting of water from time to time, perhaps once a week but not much more.
Keep an eye on your soil which should remain fairly dry. This will help you to decide if it is time to water. You can use a spray bottle to spray a light mist, or a garden hose on low pressure. You should stop watering your garlic a few weeks before it is time to harvest.
7. Mulching and Fertilizing Garlic
A nice layer of mulch on top of your soil makes a big difference to garlic plants.
It will provide protection from the elements, retain moisture, and maintain a good growing temperature for your plants. You can create your own mulch from items such as leaves and worm casings.
8. Harvesting Garlic
If you planted in the fall, your garlic should be ready to go by early to mid-summer. Your garlic is ready to harvest when about a third of leaves have begun to go brown and wither, and the soil is dry.
Loosen up the soil with your hands or digging fork, and gently pull the plants up out of the soil. Being gentle is important as you don’t want to bruise or damage the delicate skin on the young garlic bulbs.
9. Replanting and Curing Garlic
Once you harvest your garlic plant, you can either cook and eat it straight away, replant or cure it.
Curing is the process of drying the garlic for long term storage. This is so you can use it later or keep the bulbs for re-planting in the following fall season. Curing your garlic ensures that the energy and minerals from the leaves move into the bulbs as they dry.
How To Cure Garlic
To cure your garlic, once you have harvested your plants lay them out in the open to dry. You need a warm airy spot with shelter from the rain and direct sunlight. Young garlic bulbs are surprisingly susceptible to sunburn.
Leave the plants here to dry for about a week, then dust off all the excess soil and clip the roots to about an inch long.
Do not wash your bulbs as the point is to dry them out. Leave them to dry for at least another week, sometimes a month if the weather is quite humid. Only then you can clip off the leaves or braid them ( braiding is only for softneck varieties).
Make sure not to remove the leaves whilst curing. This is because the bulbs draw away energy and nutrients from the leaves as part of the curing process, gradually drying them out. The leaves also protect the bulb from fungi and other bacteria during the process.
To finish, dust off the excess soil, and trim the leaves and roots to approx. ¼ to a ½ inch long. Peel off the excess skin until you are left with beautiful pure white (or red) bulbs. The largest and best-looking bulbs should be kept aside for re-planting next year’s garlic!
10. Keeping Garlic
Once you have finished all your curing, you can store your garlic in a number of ways. If you have planted softneck garlic, you can braid your garlic bulbs together and hang it up in your kitchen homestead style.
If you would prefer something a bit less labor-intensive, you can simply keep your bulbs in hanging mesh bags until you are ready to use them. Mesh bags are nice and soft and prevent bruising the delicate skin of your fresh homegrown garlic. They are also nice and breathable, to keep your garlic dry and prevent unwanted mold and sprouting.
Garlic is an awesome plant with so many health benefits in one small package. Growing your own garlic might be intimidating at first, but it is worth the effort, and it gets easier with every harvest. Hopefully, I have inspired you to give growing garlic at home a go!
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