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Steps for Growing Organic Garlic

written by: Stephanie Michael•edited by: Lindsay Evans•updated: 7/19/2010

Starting your own organic garden is a commitment to eating healthier and growing healthier. Growing organic garlic is a great place to start, it’s easy to grow and due to the fact that it’s a natural insecticide it can help the rest of your garden flourish.

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    Why Should You Grow Organically?

    Growing organically is better for you and for the environment. When you make the choice to garden organically you are making a choice to help create a healthy new ecosystem in your own backyard. Healthy toxin free soil leads to healthy toxin free plants which nourish the beneficial bugs that live in our gardens. Those bugs feed small animals and that is the beginning of a toxin free food chain.

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    How to Start Your Organic Garden

    Starting an organic garden is easy. Start with the purest soil you can, look for a place in the middle of your yard, away from buildings and anything that can contribute any kind of chemical runoff. Purchase or borrow organic soil from friends and neighbors. Also consider starting your own compost heap. There’s no need for fancy bins or tumblers. Just start a pile using some clean soil, lawn clippings, and organic materials from your kitchen. Coffee grounds, used tea bags, fruit and vegetable scraps and eggshells will contribute all the nutrients you need.

    Once you have the soil prepared you’re ready to plant. All you have to do to keep your garden organic is refraining from using chemical pesticides and fertilizers.

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    When to Plant Your Garlic

    In order to have the best results growing organic garlic you need to time your planting just right. If you live in warmer southern climates you can plant your garlic in the early winter or late in spring. Since warmer climates do not need to worry about frost killing the new bulbs you have more flexibility in planting

    If you live in colder winter climates plant your garlic cloves approximately three weeks before the winter frost. The trick is to get your bulbs rooted before the cold weather hits but to have them in the ground, waiting patiently for spring, so they have the most time to grow and develop. When planting, space each clove approximately 6-8 inches away from its neighbor in rows and space the rows 10-12 inches apart.

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    Caring for your Garlic

    The most important thing to keep in mind when growing organic garlic, or any garlic for that matter, is to be sure not to over water the plants. Over watering can lead to weak skins, mold, or underdeveloped bulbs that don’t keep well after harvesting. Make sure you stop watering your plants about 3 weeks before you plan to harvest them. You can keep moisture in the soil using about 5 centimeters of natural organic mulch.

    Most gardeners clip the flowers that grow from the developing bulbs. This helps the plants focus on growing larger bulbs. It’s a good idea to leave a few flowers and when they stand straight up you can stop watering them.

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    Harvesting Your Organic Garlic

    You’ll know your garlic is ready to harvest when you see no more than one or two of the long green leaves start to turn yellow and begin to droop. You can also dig into the dirt around the bulb and feel for the development of the individual cloves. Harvest is easy, just dig carefully around the bulbs and pull them up one at a time. Be careful not to bruise the bulbs because garlic is very fragile.

    Stack the bulbs in a cool and dry area that’s protected from the sun. Let the garlic dry for about two weeks then you can trim the stalks and excess roots from the bottom of your bulb. Be careful not to remove more layers of skin than necessary.

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    Finding Help and Support Near You

    For local support, check out the Open Garden Project and search for local gardeners near you. This is a great way to find starter soil and to get tips and tricks to improve your organic garden. Growing organic garlic is just the beginning, now you’re ready to grow an entire organic garden.

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    Sources:

    http://www.garlicfarm.ca/growing-garlic.htm

    http://www.verdant.net/food.htm

    http://www.afreshsqueeze.com/chicago/articles/growing-your-organic-vegetable-garden-six-steps

    http://opengardenproject.blogspot.com/