Is there any meal that can’t be improved with more garlic? From spaghetti to chili, this kitchen staple is versatile and downright delicious. Perhaps the only drawback is that it takes a while to grow full cloves and some areas may not have growing seasons long enough to allow for it. Garlic greens are tasty, but sometimes you just want the cloves. Unless you live somewhere warm year-round, it is often best to try growing garlic indoors.
Fortunately, this is fairly simple to do. It doesn’t require much in terms of equipment, and the results are well worth the effort.
Equipment needed for growing garlic indoors
Garlic requires a few things when it comes to a container. Each plant needs a fair amount of space– if you want full cloves, you are better off planting one bulb per container. Furthermore, the container should be pretty deep– look for one that has a depth of about 12-inches for best results. And you need adequate drainage. Too much moisture can kill your plants.
Fabric pots, such as this five-gallon five-pack from Vivosun, are ideal. The fabric provides excellent drainage while keeping your growing medium firmly in place.
A good growing medium is better for garlic than traditional soil. Choose a medium that supports quick drainage. Sandy loam is one of the better media out there for garlic, but you could also get away with a mix of peat moss and perlite. Avoid coco coir as it tends to retain excess moisture.
For more ideas on choosing an organic soil see “Choosing the Best Organic Garden Soil”
Of course, when you are growing garlic indoors, you will need garlic bulbs to plant. You may be able to run up to your local grocery store and purchase a few, but there is no guarantee that they will sprout. Bulbs are also available at gardening shops as well as online.
One option is this seven-pack from Country Creek Acres. According to the company, they are easy to grow and harvest and each bulb is capable of producing a decent amount of garlic.
For best results, your garlic is going to require some nutrition to grow. Liquid fertilizers are ideal because you can apply them every few weeks, providing your garlic with a boost of nutrition. There are many fertilizers out there and many are all-natural.
Neptune’s Harvest, for example, is an organic fish fertilizer that you can easily spray on your plants.
Garlic requires six to eight hours of sunlight each day. If you are going to be growing your garlic in a room with lots of natural lighting and you live in an area where the sun shines year-round, this may not be an issue for you. For many, however, it is necessary to invest in a small grow light to ensure your plants have adequate access to sunlight. This light doesn’t have to be anything extravagant or fancy.
Exorkas’ Grow Light is a budget-friendly option with four different adjustable lights and a built-in timer feature.
Six steps to success when growing garlic indoors
Step one: chill your garlic
Assuming your goal is to grow actual garlic cloves and not just greens, this step is an important one. In order for garlic to grow, it has to be chilled first. If the garlic were being grown outdoors, this step would happen naturally during the winter. Since you are growing your garlic in a climate-controlled environment, however, you will have to find a way to replicate those temperatures. The best way to do this is to simply stick your garlic bulbs in the fridge.
This may take some time and patience. Usually, you will want to chill your garlic for anywhere from four to six weeks.
Step two: prepare your containers and the growing area
One benefit of this long chill period is that it provides you plenty of time to prepare for planting. If you are using fabric containers, there isn’t a ton of prep work that is necessary. When it’s getting close to planting time, find a drip tray to place the containers in. Fill the containers with your growing medium and thoroughly water. Make sure that the water drains out quickly and that your drip tray is large enough to catch all the runoff.
If you are using solid containers, make sure that there are drain holes at the bottom. If there are not, you may need to drill a few. It can’t be overstated how important good drainage is for garlic.
Finally, if you are going to be using a grow light, install the light fixture and make sure your containers are placed in a spot where they have adequate access to the light. Set up the timer so that your garlic can receive around eight hours of light per day.
Step three: peel apart the bulbs
After the chill period, pull your garlic bulbs from the fridge. Carefully break up the bulbs, exposing the individual cloves. Note that it is not necessary– and actually detrimental– to remove the shell. Simply break apart the cloves and set them aside in a dry area for 24 hours.
Step four: plant your cloves
Once all your prep work is finally complete, it’s time to start planting. As mentioned earlier, if your goal is to harvest full cloves, you will want to plant one bulb per container, but this can mean two or three individual cloves, depending on the size of your pot. Try to leave at least five inches between each clove. Create a small hole three inches deep and set a single clove inside. Bury your cloves with the growing medium and water them thoroughly. The growing medium should be moist to the touch and water should begin to fill your drip tray.
Step five: care for your garlic
Now you’re in maintenance mode. Fortunately, garlic doesn’t take too much effort. Monitor the growing medium in your container regularly– it should be damp but not soaking wet. When the mixture begins to feel dry to the touch, it’s time to add water.
Every two or three weeks, spray a bit of fertilizer onto the growing medium, as well. Ideally, this should be done on a day when you are watering your plants. You can mix the liquid fertilizer in with your water and apply both at the same time.
Step six: harvest
Initially, you will notice your garlic plant sprouting green stems with thin leaves. These are edible and taste great on a salad or in soup. However, if you want your garlic to yield cloves, it’s best to leave these alone– at least at first. Once the stems begin to get four or five inches long, you can trim them, leaving at least an inch of stem left on the plant.
When the stems start to turn brown, it is time to harvest your garlic. Usually, this takes around ten months, although sometimes it’s a bit faster. Dig the bulbs that have developed out of the growing medium and carefully pull them out. Set the bulbs aside for two weeks to dry out before eating.
Growing garlic indoors is a fairly simple process, but it does take some time. If you wish to grow your own garlic, don’t expect to harvest your crops overnight. Instead, rest assured that your patience will be rewarded with fresh garlic.