Sep 27 2016

Gardening in Costa Rica With Steve – Growing Garlic

GardeningWithSteve_smDo you like garlic? Are you crazy about garlic? If the answer is yes, then you owe it to yourself to grow your own. This is because fresh garlic out of your garden is ten times better than what you find in the store. Once you’ve eaten your own homegrown garlic you can never go back to the supermarket variety.

Homegrown garlic is a good example of why people grow their own food. It’s the quality. You will probably not save any money by growing your own, and you will certainly not save any time. But you will be getting fresh air and exercise, and you will be eating delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables.

I feel kind of funny about giving advice on growing garlic. I am by no stretch of the imagination an expert. But I have grown it, moderately successfully, I’d say, and that is more than the average gardener. A lot of people like to eat garlic but I’ve discovered few people grow it. I don’t know why.


From what I have read on the internet, garlic will not form a head in hot weather. In temperate climates, it is typically planted in the fall and harvested in the late spring or early summer. For this reason I do not believe you should try growing garlic below, say, 3,000 feet elevation in Costa Rica.


It started one day in the supermarket. As I was looking over the produce section I spotted some of that white garlic from China and thought, hey, I love garlic, why not grow it? So I bought one loose garlic head and took it home. After doing a little research on the internet I was off and running. It’s in the onion family (allium), and I’d grown lots of onions over the years, so it can’t be that hard, I thought. It wasn’t.


Garlic is a heavy feeder. It needs lots of nutrition, sun, and moisture. Prepare a bed of rich, well-drained soil. Garlic does not do well in soggy soil, so growing it in a raised bed is best. Full sun is essential. Garlic grows a lot like onions, however it takes longer to mature. Onions are typically ready to harvest within three or four months. Garlic takes four to five months. Garlic will not form a head in hot weather, nor in excessively wet soil. I’ve been planting mine in October or November and harvesting it in March or April, before the rainy season begins.

img_7934Break up a head or two of garlic with your hands. You should get about 10-12 cloves from each head. If some of the cloves do not look that healthy, do not plant them. Plant the cloves in a furrow about three inches deep, with cloves about four inches apart. Fill the soil in about one inch and then water. You can fill the row in the rest of the way after three or four weeks. Make another furrow parallel to the first, about three inches away. Add a little commercial fertilizer (go heavy on the phosphorus) to the furrow and cover completely. Repeat this two more times during the growing season. The green shoots should appear above the soil in less than a week. If you plant in October, you won’t have to begin watering until December. Once the dry season sets in, water every other day. After four months cut back on the watering in order to allow the bulbs to form. Once they look plump and the stalks begin to flop over, they are ready to harvest. Keep the bulbs in a dry place for several weeks before using them.

Once the dry season has set in, cover the soil with a couple of inches of mulch. This helps keep the moisture at an even level in the soil, cuts down on weeding, and will improves the productivity of the garlic plants. I used to use hay for mulch, but now that I have a chipper, I use wood chips mixed with a little compost.

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