Growing Garlic in Containers: How to Grow, Harvest, and Use Aromatic Garlic Grown in Your Raised Garden Bed
Bad breath be damned—garlic is one of the most flavorful and versatile edibles you can grow in your raised garden bed. Even if you don’t want to cook with it, there are myriad health benefits to garlic. So, let’s dive into the wild world of growing garlic in containers and learning what you can do with it once you harvest it. It’s easy to grow, especially in an Eco Garden elevated garden bed.
What is garlic, anyway?
Garlic (Allium Sativum L.) is a close relative of the onion and the chive, making it part herb, part vegetable—it kind of falls in a category all its own. The savory veg/herb has a papery skin and forms a bulb with separate cloves inside. There are two varieties:
- Hardneck – This type of garlic has a hard, woody middle and produces a flowering stalk called a scape. Garlic scapes are edible right after they start curling. This is a nice option for people sensitive to garlic who still want the flavor in recipes.
- Softneck – This type of garlic produces more cloves than hardneck. Climate changes the flavor of these varieties (often, not for the better).
How to grow garlic
To grow garlic in your raised garden bed, you need to use garlic cloves. You can get these at any garden center or seed company. Plant the cloves 4-6” apart with the pointed end facing up (leave the papery skin on each clove). Push them into the soil 1-2” deep and if the soil is dry, give them a little water. Fall planting is best; garlic needs to go through a cold weather period.
But wait—can’t I just use the cloves from the garlic I bought at the grocery store? There are varying opinions about this. Much of the garlic you find in the grocery store is softneck variety grown in Northern California. Recall that it has a finnicky way of changing to a less desirable flavor when grown in the wrong climate—cooler areas are better off growing hardneck.
One of our beginner gardeners is doing an experiment with this. She planted organic cloves from the local food co-op, which was selling a locally grown hardneck variety last fall. Fingers crossed that she’ll get a harvest of scapes and bulbs this summer.
How to harvest garlic
Your garlic will be ready to harvest in the summer, usually late June to late July. The garlic will sprout in spring but won’t be ready to dig up until the bottom half of the sprouts start to turn brown. Don’t pull them up too soon or they will be undersized. Leave them too long, and the cloves will start to separate, making them hard to store.
Put the bulbs in a dry, airy place for three to four weeks to allow them to cure. After curing, cut the shoots off 1/2 to 1” above the bulb and trim the roots right up to the base of the bulb.
Don’t forget to save some of the largest cloves for planting again in the fall!
How to use garlic
Garlic adds tons of flavor to almost any dish. It pairs well with onions and shallots, adding life to stir fry, soups, meats, omelets, and more. Try mincing garlic to truly release its flavor.
Find yourself sick? The savory cloves add a rich tang and additional health benefits to your soup and bone broth. To reap the rewards, cut the cloves and let them sit for at least 10 minutes before heating them; this releases allicin, the medicinal compound found in the garlic. Here are some other reasons to use garlic for your health, such as combatting diabetes, high blood pressure, and dementia.
If you don’t want to ingest garlic, you can still benefit from its healing properties. It’s been known to help with athlete’s foot, acne, cuts and scrapes, splinters, and even pest control. There are so many reasons to get growing garlic in containers!
But if you’re like most of us who love eating garlic, try these recipes from our archives: