What is a garlic clove and what exactly are you supposed to use when you come across the mention of 1 clove of garlic?
When we buy garlic, we buy it in whole garlic heads or garlic bulbs. The bulbs separate into many cloves.
Each garlic bulb is composed of multiple garlic cloves. Thus, the garlic cloves are the individual lobes that make a garlic bulb or head.
A garlic bulb can have 10 to 20 cloves, it depends on the garlic variety that we grow or buy.
Moreover, we can get small garlic bulbs that are made of very tiny garlic cloves or we could get very big bulbs that are made of quite big cloves.
The advantage with the bigger cloves is that they’re easier to peel. The smaller cloves can take a while to peel. It’s not a problem if you need just 3-4 cloves but it can get tiring if we make recipes heavy on the garlic or if we cook for many people.
What Is a Garlic Clove? A Garlic Bulb Is Made of Many Cloves of Garlic
Garlic heads are covered in whitish papery skin. When we remove that first layer, we reveal the garlic cloves that make up the bulb.
The cloves look like bulbs and each individual clove is also covered in similar papery skin, like the entire head.
This papery sheath can be white-purplish or pinkish.
A clove of garlic looks like an irregular lob covered in papery skin. One end is pointy and the other is a rough flat surface.
The flat rough surface is also called the root end.
It’s important to make the distinction between the pointed side and the root-end side when we want to plant and grow garlic at home.
The only basic thing we must keep in mind when we sow garlic at home is that the cloves should always be planted with the root-end side down and the pointed side up.
It’s just like we do when we plant flower bulbs.
What Is a Garlic Clove? How to Grow Garlic at Home
Since I mentioned that we plant garlic cloves in order to grow garlic at home, we get another answer to the question what is a garlic clove.
Thus, we can also say that the garlic clove is the part of the garlic plant we need to plant in the ground if we want to grow garlic plants and harvest garlic bulbs.
Besides using garlic cloves in so many of our wonderful recipes, we also use cloves of garlic when we want to grow garlic at home.
It’s a very simple process. It’s one of the easiest plants to grow in the ground.
Moreover, we can plant both small onion bulbs (sets) and garlic cloves at the same time in the same space. Both these bulbous vegetables require the same growing conditions and we’ll pretty much harvest the onions and garlic bulbs at the same time.
Let’s see which are the specific steps if we want to grow garlic at home. They’re rather easy. I believe that everyone should give this a go.
Even if you only have a small garden bed or container, you can still grow your own garlic plants.
Garlic is a vegetable with shallow roots. That’s why it’s perfect to grow in smaller pots and containers. You really don’t need much.
It doesn’t require that much space because the garlic heads that will grow underground from individual garlic cloves are quite tiny. They don’t grow as large in diameter as onions so the plants don’t take up much space. You can have a good harvest even if you have a small patch of soil.
1. Grab your cloves or seeds
While we are used to growing some of our usual plants from seeds, germinating them in special trays and then transplanting the seedlings, that’s not what we have to do if we want to grow garlic at home.
This is where the wonderful answer to the question what is a garlic clove comes in.
A clove of garlic is exactly what we need if we want to grow one single garlic plant.
If we want to grow multiple garlic plants, we need multiple cloves of garlic. Plant as many garlic cloves as you have the space.
You can grow garlic from store-bought garlic bulbs. Or you can buy cloves from seed producers if you want to be completely sure that you’re getting the best variety. I save a couple of the bulbs I grew in the previous season for the next planting.
2. Root-end side down and the pointed side up
This is one of the most important things you need to keep in mind when planting the cloves in the ground/soil.
The flat side goes down, this is the root-end side.
The pointy tip is up.
Also, don’t remove the papery wrap of the gloves. We’re sowing, not cooking.
3. Planting depth
Another thing we must keep in mind is planting depth.
I would recommend planting the cloves 2-3 inches deep.
The sowing distance between the cloves should be about 3-4 inches if you plant them in containers and you have limited space.
If you have plenty of space and you’re growing plants with big bulbs, then you can plant the cloves 5-6 inches apart.
4. Can you grow in pots and containers?
If you don’t have an outdoor garden, you can absolutely use whatever pots or containers you have in the house to grow garlic plants.
As I’ve mentioned, these plants can be perfect for pots or containers because they don’t take up much space.
If you’re growing in containers, I recommend looking for smaller-bulb garlic varieties.
If you have a pot that is at least 6 inches deep, that is really awesome. You could grow 3 garlic plants of the small bulb variety even in a small 6-inch pot.
In an 8-inch pot, you can even squeeze in up to 6 garlic plants, while a 10-inch pot can give you enough space to sow 8-10 cloves of garlic.
You could also sow the garlic cloves just for eating the best green garlic if you’re not interested in growing the plant until the bulbs are ready for harvest.
If you’re only growing green garlic, you can sow the cloves much closer.
As it’s mostly always the case, we need a well-drained, moisture-retentive soil.
A soil rich in compost is always the most desirable.
If you feel that the plants need additional help during the growing season, you can use a water-soluble all purpose fertilizer.
Just like it’s the case with onions, you’ll know that the garlic bulbs are ready for harvest when the tops wilt and flop over. Potatoes are also ready for harvest when the entire plant turns brown and flops to the ground.
Depending on when you did the planting, harvesting can be done at the end of May, June or July.
In the end, I hope that my answer to the question what is a garlic clove has provided you with the inspiration to grow your own garlic plants, especially if you want to taste the best green garlic ever.