5 Seeds to Start in February

As the warmer days beckon, it’s time to embrace the spring fever and dip our toes into spring seed starting! While February is only the tip of the iceberg, there are a few things that should be started this month for robust transplants in the spring. Here are five delightful seeds to sow for now vibrant spring transplants:

  1. Onions: For those situated in Montana, opt for long-day type seeds.
  2. Leeks: These mild-flavored delights are a versatile addition to any garden or kitchen. Start them now for robust, flavorful leeks later in the season.
  3. Pansy/Viola: Bring a burst of color to your garden beds with these cheerful and resilient edible flowers.
  4. Chives: A perennial and a culinary staple with a hint of onion flavor, chives are a must-have herb for every gardener.
  5. Lavender: Add a touch of fragrance and elegance to your garden with the timeless beauty of lavender. Start these seeds indoors now, and by the time spring arrives, you’ll have aromatic lavender plants ready to grace your garden beds or containers.

Stay tuned for a post in March about what to get started next!

Do You Really Need a Seedling Heat Mat for Starting Seeds?

Starting seeds is an exciting endeavor for any gardener, whether you’re a seasoned pro or just beginning your green-thumb journey. One common question that arises is whether a seedling heat mat is necessary for successful seed germination. The short answer? In most cases, no, a seedling heat mat will not make or break your seed starting endeavor.  However, there are some situations where a seedling heat mat is an extremely useful tool and can help promote the success of your endeavor.

Why You Might Want a Seedling Heat Mat

While not strictly necessary, incorporating a seedling heat mat into your seed-starting setup can offer several advantages. Firstly, it can enhance the overall health and vigor of your seedlings. Consistent warmth at the root level encourages robust growth and helps seedlings establish themselves more quickly.  Secondly, if you’re working with seeds that are more than a few years old, a heat mat will greatly improve your germination percentage.

Speeding Up Germination

Another benefit of using a seedling heat mat is its ability to accelerate the germination process. By providing a stable, elevated temperature, these mats create an optimal environment for seeds to sprout. This can be particularly advantageous for varieties that require warmer soil temperatures to germinate efficiently.

Creating a Warm Micro-Climate

Many gardeners start their seedlings in places like garages or basements, which often tend to be cooler in temperature than a standard 70 degree F house. In such situations, a seedling heat mat becomes essential.  The mat helps create a warmer micro-climate within your seed-starting tray and dome, mimicking the conditions of a sunlit nursery bed.

Factors to Consider

While seedling heat mats offer undeniable benefits, they’re not universally necessary. Before investing in one, consider factors such as your local climate, the types of seeds you’re germinating, and your available indoor space. Some seeds, like tomatoes and peppers, thrive in warmer conditions and may benefit greatly from the use of a heat mat. On the other hand, cool-season crops like lettuce and broccoli may not require the extra warmth.

 

Remember, gardening is as much an art as it is a science. Experimentation and adaptation are key to finding what works best for you and your plants. So, while a seedling heat mat may not be an absolute necessity, it’s undoubtedly a handy resource that can contribute to your gardening success.

The Importance of a Great Seed Starting Mix

Seed starting is a rewarding and therapeutic hobby that allows gardeners to expand their garden’s varieties each spring.  Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, one crucial aspect of successful seed starting is often overlooked: the seed starting mix. The quality of your seed starting mix can make or break your seed starting, as it sets the foundation for healthy and robust plants.  Let’s dive into the qualities that make a seed starting mix great:

 

Excellent Drainage

Proper drainage is crucial for seedlings. A high-quality seed starting mix is designed to retain moisture while allowing excess water to drain away, preventing root rot and other water-related issues. The ideal mix should have good aeration and structure, ensuring that your seedlings’ roots have access to oxygen, which is essential for healthy growth.  Many all-purpose potting mixes have excellent drainage: however, this is often achieved by using large chunks of perlite or forest products.  While those components are great for a potting mix, they are not great for a seed starting mix.  Large chunks can deter seedling from sprouting or cause unusual growth. 

 

Consistent Texture

Inconsistent soil textures can impede seedling growth. A great seedling mix should have a very fine texture–meaning that there are very few large chunks throughout the mix.  This consistency promotes even germination and root development, leading to healthier and more robust plants.  

 

pH Balance

The pH level of your seed starting mix is another crucial factor. Different plants have different pH preferences, and a quality mix typically maintains a neutral pH or can be adjusted to suit specific plant needs. By starting with a balanced pH, you create a favorable environment for your seedlings to establish themselves and take up essential nutrients.

 

Optimal Nutrient Balance

A high-quality seed starting mix will typically be void of nutrients. Unlike garden soil and potting mix, which can be too compact or nutrient-rich for delicate seedlings, a well-formulated seed starting mix offers the roots a place to grow.  Seed Starting Mix is NOT meant to be used as the sole nutrient source for seedlings–especially those that need to be planted indoors 6-12 weeks before planting outside.  A seedling mix is best used in a small container to germinate seeds.  After germination, the seedling will produce “true leaves.” At this point, it is time to transplant or up-pot the seedling into a nutrient rich potting mix or begin a light liquid nutrient fertilizer if you would like to keep the seedling in its current container.

 

Disease Prevention

One of the most significant benefits of using a good seed starting mix is disease prevention. Garden soil can harbor harmful pathogens that may harm your delicate seedlings. A seed starting mix, on the other hand, is typically sterile or pasteurized, minimizing the risk of soil-borne diseases. This reduced risk can help your seedlings avoid common problems like damping off, a fungal disease that can devastate young plants.

 

A high quality seed starting mix serves as the foundation for healthy and vigorous plants, providing the optimal nutrient balance, disease prevention, excellent drainage, consistent texture and pH balance that young seedlings require. By investing in a quality seed starting mix, you set your plants up for success and increase your chances of enjoying a bountiful and thriving garden. 

 

Green Thumb Recommendation:

At Green Thumbs, we have used many brands of seed starting mix but we certainly have a clear favorite: Black Gold Natural and Organic Seedling Mix.  It is a blend of micro-perlite, coarse peatmoss and silica for strong plant growth.  It is ready to use right out of the bag–just rehydrate before planting your seeds!  

If you’d like to try your hand at making your own seed starting mix, we sell many common components such as peat, perlite, vermiculite, compost, coconut coir and more.  Visit us at 111 S Broadway in Belgrade, MT for all of your seed starting needs.

Garden-to-Table Thanksgiving: Potatoes

In our previous post, we explored the unconventional yet delightful presence of Brussels sprouts in our Thanksgiving feast. Today, let’s journey back into the heart of tradition and shine a spotlight on the mighty potato.  As a timeless favorite on the Thanksgiving table, the potato brings comfort, versatility, and a touch of homegrown goodness to the holiday spread.

 

The Joy of Growing Potatoes:

Potatoes are one of the easiest plants to grow, harvest and store!  From planting the seed potatoes in May to watching the lush green foliage emerge, the journey to a September harvest is a rewarding experience. Home gardeners have the opportunity to choose from a variety of potato types, each offering distinct flavors and textures. My favorite way to grow potatoes is in a fabric grow bag.  Gardeners can also plant potatoes directly into the ground.  Check out our potato growing guide for containers here. We also have a guide for growing potatoes in the ground that can be found here.

 

Varieties of Potatoes for Thanksgiving:

Different potato varieties bring diverse qualities to your Thanksgiving table. Russet potatoes are excellent for mashed potatoes, while Yukon Golds offer a buttery flavor perfect for roasting. Huckleberry Gold potatoes, developed by Montana State University, are my favorite variety for making mashed potatoes as they have a naturally buttery flavor and are wonderful mashed. Potatoes grow very well in the Gallatin Valley.  In fact, there are approximately 10,000 acres of seed potatoes grown in Gallatin County. If you missed out on growing your own potatoes this year, you can stop by Green Thumb’s in April to purchase locally grown organic seed potatoes for your own garden!

 

Harvesting Potatoes for Thanksgiving:

Potatoes are typically ready for harvest when the tops of the plants begin to yellow and die back. This is generally in September and October.  Gently dig around the base of the plants to unearth your homegrown potatoes. After harvest, brush off as much soil as possible.  Place the potatoes in a cool, dark place until Thanksgiving!  

 

Thanksgiving Recipes Featuring Fresh Potatoes:

    • Creamy Mashed Potatoes: Boil your garden potatoes until tender, mash them with butter and cream, and season to taste. The result is a side dish that’s rich, velvety, and full of homegrown goodness.
    • Roasted Garlic Rosemary Potatoes: Toss diced potatoes with olive oil, minced garlic, and fresh rosemary before roasting until golden brown. This aromatic and flavorful dish is sure to become a Thanksgiving favorite.
    • Potato Gratin: Layer thinly sliced potatoes with cream, cheese, and herbs for a decadent potato gratin. Bake until bubbly and golden for a show-stopping side dish.

 

This Thanksgiving, elevate your celebration by incorporating homegrown potatoes into your feast. The journey from garden to table adds a layer of connection and appreciation for the food on your plate. Whether you’re savoring creamy mashed potatoes, indulging in roasted garlic rosemary potatoes, or enjoying a potato gratin, the freshness and flavor of homegrown spuds will undoubtedly enhance the spirit of gratitude around your Thanksgiving table.

From Garden to Table Thanksgiving: Brussels Sprouts

As Thanksgiving approaches, our family eagerly anticipates the unconventional star of our feast – Brussels sprouts. While not a traditional holiday dish and often the subject of culinary debate, these little green gems have earned a cherished spot on our table. 

The Growing Process:

In May, our garden becomes a canvas for the future stars of our Thanksgiving spread. Brussels sprout transplants from the Green Thumb Greenhouse are planted with care, nurtured throughout the growing season with plenty of Down to Earth BioFish fertilizer, and by October, the harvest is ready. The process of tending to these plants creates a sense of anticipation and connection to the food we’ll soon share with loved ones.  We will share a more detailed Brussels sprouts growing guide in a later post.

Preserving the Harvest:

Since the Brussel sprouts are harvested in October, we have adopted an easy preservation technique to ensure a Thanksgiving feast that’s truly garden-fresh: blanching & freezing. Blanching is the process of submerging the Brussels sprouts in boiling water for about 5 minutes and then transferring them to an ice bath to stop the cooking process.  After the sprouts have cooled, we remove them from the ice water and pat them dry, removing as much of the water as possible.  Next, we put the sprouts into a vacuum seal bag.  After sealing the bag, the sprouts go into the freezer until Thanksgiving day!!

The Joy of Sweat Equity:

There’s something special about serving a dish that reflects the time, effort, and care invested in its creation. Each Brussels sprout on our Thanksgiving table tells a story of dedication and passion. It’s a joyous reminder that the extra steps taken in the garden translate to a richer and more meaningful dining experience.

Thanksgiving Traditions:

Despite being a departure from traditional Thanksgiving fare, Brussels sprouts have become a cherished part of our family’s holiday traditions. Their presence adds a unique flavor to our celebration, sparking conversations and creating lasting memories. Embracing the unconventional is what makes our Thanksgiving truly special.

 

As we gather around the table on Thanksgiving day, the Brussels sprouts become more than just a side dish; they embody the spirit of our garden-to-table journey. Through each step of cultivation, preservation, and presentation, we savor the connection between the food on our plates and the labor of love invested in its creation. This Thanksgiving, let’s celebrate not only the harvest but also the moments of shared joy, gratitude, and the unique flavors that make our traditions truly special.

 

Roasted Brussels Sprouts

20 Home grown Brussel sprouts, cut in half

2 Tbsp Olive Oil

3 slices of bacon

2 tsp sea salt

½ tsp Black Pepper

2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

1 Tbsp (or to taste) Sriracha or other hot sauce

 

  1. Remove frozen brussel sprouts from vacuum seal bag and allow to fully thaw
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  3. Cut brussels in half lengthwise (if not already done) and arrange them cut side down onto a baking sheet. Be careful not to overcrowd.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with bacon, salt and pepper
  5. Place the prepared baking sheet in the oven and roast for 20 minutes
  6. Remove from oven and drizzle with balsamic vinegar and sriracha 
  7. Bake another 5 minutes to caramelize the vinegar
  8. Remove from the oven and ENJOY!

Exploring the Kratky Hydroponic Method: Simple, Sustainable, and Productive

Exploring the Kratky Hydroponic Method: Simple, Sustainable, and Productive

Two winters ago, a sweet customer came in with some questions regarding indoor hydroponic gardening.  I was happy to give her my tips & tricks. Towards the end of the conversation, she asked me about something I had not heard of: The Kratky Method. She gave me a basic explanation of what the Kratky Method was and how to set up a basic system.  I immediately had my doubts until she showed me photos of her thriving Kratky garden.  From that point on, I knew I had to learn more and try it myself.  

What is the Kratky Method?

The Kratky hydroponic method is a passive hydroponic system developed by Dr. Bernard A. Kratky. This method is particularly well-suited for growing leafy greens and certain herbs. It is known for its minimalistic approach, requiring little equipment, making it an excellent choice for beginners and those who prefer a low-tech, cost-effective approach to hydroponics.

Here’s how the Kratky hydroponic method works:

  • Reservoir: You start with a container, which could be a large reservoir, a bucket or even a mason jar. This container holds the nutrient solution, which provides essential “food” to the plants.  It’s best to have a dark reservoir. If you’re choosing to use something like a glass mason jar, you will want to darken the glass. This could be by sewing a sleeve for it, putting duct tape around it, spray painting it or any other method to darken the glass.
  • Net Cup: The net cup will go into the reservoir, usually held up by some sort of lid or lip on the reservoir.  The net cup will hold the growing media, whether it’s rockwool, leca, perlite or coconut coir.
  • Planting: Plant your seedlings in the growing media you have chosen. In my experience, it has been easiest to start seeds in rockwool.
  • Nutrient Solution: Fill the reservoir with a weak nutrient solution, which is a water-based solution containing all the essential nutrients required for plant growth. As the seedling grows, the roots of the plants absorb these nutrients from the solution.  When  your seedlings get larger, you will need to increase the concentration of the nutrient solution.  My favorite nutrients to use are FloraMax’s Veg-1 or FoxFarm’s Grow Big Hydro.
  • Light: Position your Kratky setup in an area with appropriate lighting for the specific plants you are growing. If you are using your Kratky system inside the house (which is very common) you will need grow lights. Read more about selecting a grow light here.
  • pH Monitoring:  pH refers to the acidity or alkalinity of the nutrient solution and is crucial in all hydroponic systems–not just the Kratky System.  Without getting into too much chemistry, the pH of your hydroponic system should be somewhere between 5.5-6.5.  The starting pH of your water and your liquid nutrients will affect the pH of your system. pH can be measured by a simple test kit (I like General Hydroponics pH test kit for around $8) or it can be measured with a digital pH meter (these will range from $40-$200+).  

The key feature of the Kratky method is that it relies on the initial, static nutrient solution level to sustain the plants as they grow. As the plants consume water and nutrients, the solution level in the container decreases, exposing more of the roots to oxygen as they grow longer. This interaction between the roots, nutrient solution, and air allows the plants to thrive without the need for additional equipment like pumps or aerators.  As the plant drinks the nutrient rich water, the gardener must refill so that the plant does not completely dry out.  Simple. 

Thinking about starting your own Kratky hydroponic system? Stop by 111 S Broadway in Belgrade, MT for all of the supplies you will need!

Winter Survival Guide for Montana Gardeners: Let There Be Grow Lights

While many Gallatin Valley gardeners have put their outdoor gardening activities on hold until spring arrives, the gardening fun does not have to be over!  The question I always get in store: Do I really need to purchase grow lights? I have a south facing window–isn’t that enough?  The short answer is no, it’s not enough light for your plants to thrive or even enough light to keep them alive.  Let’s talk about why you need grow lights and how they can be the solution to your winter gardening desires.

The Montana Winter Challenge

Gallatin Valley’s winters are renowned for their skiing, snowboarding, cross country skiing and short daylight hours. While this is great for the folks who have been chomping at the bit to get back up to Bridger Bowl, it is not so great for the gardening enthusiast.  

Our shortest winter day (December 21st) only receives roughly 8 hours and 40 minutes of daylight from sunrise to sunset.  Most plants need at least 8 hours of full sunlight.  During our cold winter days, the sunlight is also not as intense as it is during the summer months.  Couple this with the fact that your window’s glass further cuts down the intensity of the sunlight that we do receive, your plants will pretty quickly tell you that they’re not getting enough light.  It sounds pretty bleak for our beloved plants. But, don’t let this information send you into a seasonal depression.  There is a solution: GROW LIGHTS!

Why Grow Lights are the Solution

  1. Extend the Growing Season: One of the primary reasons Montana gardeners turn to grow lights during the winter is to extend the growing season. In the Gallatin Valley, we have roughly 120 frost free days for outdoor gardening.  With the help of grow lights, you can create a controlled indoor environment that mimics the ideal conditions for your plants, even when the snow blankets your outdoor garden.
  2. Supplement Natural Light: In Montana, the amount of natural sunlight available during the winter is insufficient for the growth of most herbs or other plants you may want to grow throughout the winter. Grow lights come to the rescue by providing the essential light spectrum and intensity needed for photosynthesis. This ensures that your plants receive the energy they require to grow and thrive.
  3. Temperature Regulation: Montana winters bring extreme temperature fluctuations, which can be detrimental. By bringing your plants indoors and placing them under grow lights, you can maintain a more stable and comfortable environment for their growth, ensuring that they don’t succumb to the freezing temperatures.
  4. Space Efficiency: Indoor gardening with grow lights allows you to maximize the use of your available space. You don’t need a large outdoor garden to cultivate your favorite herbs, lettuces or other small plants, making it an ideal option for gardeners with limited space.

Montana gardeners don’t have to give up their passion for gardening during the long, harsh winters. With the help of grow lights, you can continue to grow and harvest fresh herbs, lettuce and more all year round. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or just starting out, indoor gardening with grow lights offers an enjoyable and rewarding way to stay connected to your garden and savor the flavors of your favorite herbs or other smaller plants even in the depths of winter. So, don’t let the cold season dampen your green spirit – shine some light on your plants and watch them flourish in the comfort of your home.

Should I Mulch My Garlic?

Should I Mulch My Garlic?

 

Over the last few blog posts, we have discussed many different topics regarding garlic.  If you missed them, check out “The Secret Weapon for Growing Garlic: Bone Meal”; “5 Reasons Why You Should Grow Garlic in Your Home Garden” & “Garlic Planting Guide.”  We have discussed topics like using fertilizer, planting depth and more.  Now that you have your garlic planted you may be wondering, “Do I need to mulch my garlic?”  The answer may be “it depends” so let’s discuss a few of the benefits to mulching your garlic patch so that you can make the best decision for your garden.

 

  1. Weed Suppression

One of the primary reasons for mulching your garlic is weed suppression. Weeds can compete with your garlic plants for essential nutrients, water, and sunlight, potentially stunting their growth and reducing your harvest. Mulch acts as a natural barrier, preventing weed seeds from germinating and establishing themselves in your garlic bed. This means less time spent weeding and more time enjoying your garden.

 

 2. Moisture Retention

Garlic plants require consistent moisture throughout their growing season, especially during dry spells. While the Gallatin Valley may receive a decent amount of moisture, it has been my experience that the moisture will run out more quickly than it replenishes.  Even with wet springs, the garlic will still need to be watered through July to continue growth.  Mulch helps to retain soil moisture by reducing evaporation and keeping the soil evenly moist. This is crucial for garlic, as fluctuations in moisture levels can lead to smaller bulbs and a less robust flavor.

 

3. Temperature Regulation

Mulch also plays a crucial role in regulating soil temperature. Garlic is a cold-hardy crop that prefers cool conditions during its early growth stages. By providing an insulating layer of mulch, you can protect your garlic from temperature extremes and ensure optimal growth. In the winter, mulch acts as a blanket, preventing soil heaving and damage to the garlic bulbs.  The Gallatin Valley may see temperatures as low as -40 degrees.  With a layer of mulch, your garlic should survive just fine!

 

4. Pest and Disease Control

Mulch can act as a physical barrier that deters certain pests from reaching your garlic plants. Additionally, it can help prevent soil-borne diseases from splashing onto the foliage during rain or watering, reducing the risk of disease outbreaks. While mulch isn’t a foolproof method for pest and disease control, it can certainly contribute to a healthier garlic crop.

 

5. Improved Soil Structure

Over time, organic mulch, such as compost or straw, breaks down and adds valuable organic matter to your soil. This enriches the soil, enhances its structure, and increases its ability to hold nutrients. As a result, your garlic plants will have access to a more nutrient-rich environment, leading to healthier growth and more robust bulbs.

 

At Green Thumb Garden Supply, we stock HealthiStraw Weed Free Mulch.  Any time you bring mulch into your garden, you want to ensure you aren’t bringing problems–that’s why we prefer HealthiStraw products.  Be wary of “hay” or “lawn clippings” as they may have weed seeds or residual herbicides that will be harmful to your garden. 

The Secret Weapon for Growing Garlic: Bone Meal 

The Secret Weapon for Growing Garlic: Bone Meal 

Garlic is a staple in many Montana gardens.  Our climate is well-suited to growing delicious, robust flavored cloves.  While garlic is relatively easy to cultivate, there are a few tricks of the trade that can take your garlic harvest to the next level.  By fertilizing with bone meal at planting time, you can expect to have larger, more fragrant garlic at harvest time.  Below you will find a few more benefits of bone meal when planting garlic:

Boosts Root Development

Bone meal is an organic fertilizer with a high phosphorus content.  Phosphorus is a crucial nutrient for plant root growth, particularly during the early stages of development. When you use bone meal as you plant garlic, you provide your cloves with the essential phosphorus they need to establish strong root systems before they fall dormant in the winter months.  Root development is crucial to ensuring your garlic seed over winters properly.  

Enhances Bulb Development

The main goal when growing garlic is to produce plump, flavorful bulbs. Bone meal aids in this process by providing a steady supply of phosphorus throughout the growing season. Phosphorus encourages the development of larger bulbs and increases their overall quality. This means you’ll enjoy bigger and more flavorful garlic cloves come harvest time.

Strengthens Garlic Plants

In addition to phosphorus, bone meal contains calcium, another vital nutrient for plant health. Calcium strengthens the cell walls, making them more resistant to diseases and pests. By fortifying your garlic plants with bone meal, you help them withstand various environmental stressors, ensuring a healthier and more robust crop.

Long-lasting Nutrient Release

Organic fertilizers are of a “slow- release” nature, meaning that they will break down and release their nutrients over time.  Some of the nutrients in bone meal will be immediately available to the garlic cloves while some of them will break down throughout the winter to be absorbed in the spring.  Unlike synthetic fertilizers that provide a quick nutrient burst, bone meal breaks down gradually, supplying your garlic with nutrients over an extended period. This consistent nutrient availability supports steady growth and prevents over-fertilization, which can harm your plants. 

Environmentally Friendly

Bone meal is an organic fertilizer made from animal bones, making it an eco-friendly choice for gardeners. If you want to learn more about the history of bone meal, check out this article.

In the world of gardening, using bone meal when planting garlic is like giving your garlic crop a secret superpower. With its rich phosphorus content, ability to enhance bulb development, and overall plant-strengthening qualities, bone meal is a valuable ally for garlic growers. Plus, its slow-release nature and environmental friendliness make it a responsible choice for conscientious gardeners. So, if you’re aiming for a bountiful harvest of plump, flavorful garlic bulbs, don’t forget to incorporate bone meal into your gardening routine. Your taste buds will thank you!

5 Reasons Why You Should Grow Garlic in Your Home Garden

I am of the opinion that every Montana gardener should be growing garlic. The flavor and aroma of home grown garlic is unmatched by the bland garlic sold in grocery stores.  Garlic is a low maintenance plant that doesn’t require much care after it has been planted–which is done in the fall.  It’s the perfect crop for beginners, busy gardeners, small gardens and for gardeners who want to dip their toes into preserving their harvest for winter use.   Check out these 5 reasons I think everyone should be growing garlic:

 

1. Easy to Grow

For those new to gardening, garlic is a fantastic place to start.  It’s one of the most forgiving crops you can cultivate, making it perfect for beginners.  Garlic grows from individual cloves, each of which can be planted to produce a whole head of garlic. Simply break apart the cloves, plant them in well-drained soil, amend with bone meal at planting time and watch as they sprout and grow next spring. With minimal effort and some patience, you’ll soon have your very own garlic crop thriving in your garden.

 

2. Low Maintenance

One of the biggest advantages of growing garlic is its low maintenance requirements.  Montana summers are busy!! Between making time to be on the river, in the mountains or whatever other summer hobby you enjoy, it can be difficult to dedicate enough time for the garden. Once planted, garlic requires very little attention. It’s a hardy plant that can tolerate a wide range of weather conditions.  Pests and diseases tend to leave it alone. Watering is typically only necessary during dry spells, and garlic doesn’t need frequent fertilization.  Garlic is a low-maintenance crop that allows you to enjoy the fruits of your labor with minimal effort.

 

3. Better Flavor

When you grow your own garlic, you’ll discover a world of difference in flavor compared to store-bought varieties.  Freshly harvested garlic has a vibrant, robust flavor and aroma that can’t be matched by the often-mild and sometimes-stale bulbs found in supermarkets. Homegrown garlic allows you to experience the true essence of this culinary staple, enhancing the taste of your favorite dishes.  With a little extra attention, many garlic varieties can be cured and stored for winter use.  If you’re interested in dipping your toes into garden preservation, garlic is an excellent starting point! Check out our article here for more garlic curing information.

 

4. Doesn’t Require a Lot of Space

Even if you have limited garden space, you can still enjoy homegrown garlic. Garlic doesn’t demand much room and can be tucked into small beds.   Garlic cloves can be planted every 4-6 inches in the garden.  If you follow the square foot gardening method, you can plant up to 9 cloves per square foot.  Even if you only have 1 square foot of space to spare, you would be able to harvest 9 heads of garlic!  I aim to plant around 100 cloves of garlic every fall.  Garlic does take up a significant amount of space in my garden because of the quantity that I plant.  However, this amount of garlic lasts my family until the next harvest while also providing enough garlic for pressure canned tomato sauce, salsa and other preserved creations!

 

 

5. Planting Time

Timing is crucial when it comes to growing garlic, and fortunately, it happens at a time of year when not much else is happening in the garden. Garlic is typically planted in mid-October in Montana, allowing it to establish roots before winter.   Prepare your growing space with a little bit of bone meal, place the cloves 4-6 inches deep and 4-6 inches apart. Cover with soil and mulch.  Water in generously and walk away. Easy as that!  If you’re looking for a more in depth planting guide, check out ours here.

There are plenty of reasons why home gardeners should consider growing garlic. It’s easy to cultivate, low-maintenance, and highly rewarding in terms of flavor. Plus, it doesn’t require much space, making it accessible to gardeners with limited room to spare. So, if you’re looking to add a flavorful and fuss-free crop to your garden, give garlic a try. You won’t be disappointed by the taste or the satisfaction of growing your own gourmet ingredient right at home. Happy gardening!