How to grow elephant garlic for a profit

Written by k.c. morgan
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How to grow elephant garlic for a profit
Although it looks and tastes like garlic, elephant garlic isn't in the same family as the pungent bulb. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Elephant garlic, Allium ampeloprasum, is a bulb that's related to the leek. Because of its appearance, growth habits and garlic flavour, it's named elephant garlic though technically this plant does not belong to the garlic family. Elephant garlic is less cold-hardy than common garlic plants, grows a bit bigger and is harder to find -- which makes it more expensive. Up to one acre of elephant garlic produces 6804 Kilogram of saleable product. Growing elephant garlic for a profit is not extremely labour-intensive, and may help some gardeners earn a tidy living.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Soil test kit
  • Nonsoluble nitrogen fertiliser
  • Organic compost

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  1. 1

    Test soil pH using a test kit found in a home and garden store. Ideally, garlic needs soil with a pH of 6.8 to 7.2.

  2. 2

    Choose a sunny spot for garlic where it will grows in rich, well-drained soil. The soil should crumble easily in the hand when squeezed, indicating it is loose and dry. If the soil sticks together to form a ball, it is too moist. If soil needs to be prepared for garlic, you may want to begin as much as a year in advance.

  3. 3

    Apply organic compost and manure to the soil to invest it with rich nutrients during the spring and summer before you intend to plant elephant garlic.

  4. 4

    Add slow-release nitrogen fertiliser in the fall, but make sure the fertiliser is nonsoluble.

  5. 5

    Plant garlic in fall or early winter in all parts of the United States. Garlic requires a period of cold so the bulb may split into cloves. Garlic should be planted in the ground just after or before the first frost. Northern gardeners should plant elephant garlic in October; southern-based growers may wait until November or December to put the crop in the ground. You want to give garlic time to grow roots, but not leaves, before the ground freezes.

  6. 6

    Choose for planting only cloves that are firm and creamy white all over, with no soft spots or discolouration. A single clove will produce one bulb of garlic.

  7. 7

    Place cloves root-end down into the ground. In gardens with mild winters, plant the garlic 1 inch into the soil. If winters are harsher, dig as deeply as 2 to 4 inches to plant the cloves.

  8. 8

    Space elephant garlic cloves at least 12 inches apart to ensure that large bulbs will grow.

  9. 9

    Add 1 inch of mulch, either straw or wood chips, immediately after planting in colder regions and immediately after the first frost in warmer areas.

  10. 10

    Provide garlic with 1 inch of water per week if natural rainfall does not provide the necessary moisture. Lay any irrigation lines prior to mulching. Only stop watering the plants regularly when it is almost time to harvest, approximately 2 weeks before you intend to remove mature garlic bulbs.

  11. 11

    Remove flowers that may appear by cutting them from the plant with garden shears.

  12. 12

    Begin harvesting garlic once the leaf tips turn brown in summer. Dig up one or two test plants to check bulbs for size and splitting. If dug up too soon, garlic bulbs will fail to grow to their full potential, but they will begin to split into cloves if left in the ground too long. The skin of the bulb will feel tight and the shape of the bulb will be well-formed when it is fully mature.

  13. 13

    Dig up bulbs with a garden fork in small plots. Large commercial growers may use bed lifters or potato diggers to accomplish the goal.

  14. 14

    Clean bulbs thoroughly with water and allow them to air dry.

  15. 15

    Cut the tops off bulbs with shears, leaving only 1 inch of growth, or braid the tops together. Store harvested bulbs in 4.44 to 10 degrees Celsius; keep them dry to prevent them from growing new roots.

  16. 16

    Sell garlic bulbs to local restaurants, markets and other vendors who want to purchase fresh cloves. Use all-organic mulch and fertiliser so that garlic may be deemed organic, and perhaps fetch a higher price on the market.

  17. 17

    Replant in the next season any elephant garlic bulbs that did not form cloves. Sometimes, this happens with elephant garlic plants.

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