Of all the crops you can grow with kids, garlic is one of the easiest and most rewarding. Read on to learn how to grow garlic with kids in just about any container or garden bed. You can tuck it in with other plantings or save a whole bed just for this valuable crop.
Garlic likes to grow in full sun. It is a heavy feeder, which means it requires a lot of organic material and compost to keep it growing happily. It also does not grow well with competition for space or resources. Be sure to plant garlic in an area that is free of weeds and in an area with good drainage so the bulbs don’t rot.
How to Plant Garlic
First, source some organic garlic seed. Farmer’s markets and garlic festivals are a great place to source good quality garlic bulbs to use for seed. I am fond of Russian Red Neck Garlic for school gardens. It is a hard neck garlic, which means it is hardy, produces large bulbs, and reliably grows in our climate.
Next, separate the bulb into cloves. Keep the paper on the clove and distribute one clove to each child. If you have more kids than cloves, let the other children dig the holes for planting! These kids can dig small holes in a straight line about twice the depth of the size of the clove. The more space between holes, the larger your cloves can grow. If you have a smaller garden bed, stagger the plantings in each row so they are not side by side! Have the remaining kids line up to carefully place one clove in one hole, with the pointy part up. I recommend not filling in the holes with dirt, until all the cloves have been placed in their holes to be sure you have one in each hole and that they are placed the right way up.
When the cloves have been checked, fill in the holes with loose soil, and cover the bed with leaves. One last chore is to mark the planted area with a string line to be sure everyone knows the area is planted and to keep kids from playing or digging in that garden bed. Garlic does not do well with repeated freezing and thawing so be sure to keep those beds covered up during the winter months!
If you need more of a visual on these instructions, watch this fun video by Victory Gardens Vancouver. They are the gardening team that provides the highly informative and hands on portion of The Classroom Gardener!
Interesting Garlic Facts
Garlic has been used for thousands of years as an immune booster, and eating garlic is thought to be a natural mosquito repellent. Each clove of garlic is enclosed in a thin, papery sheath. The layers of paper on each bulb of garlic are matched by the number of thin flat leaves the grow along the stem of the plant. Want to know more about garlic? Pick up this super informational book, The Complete Book of Garlic: A Guide for Gardeners, Growers and Serious Cooks.
If you only plant one crop in your school garden this year, let it be garlic! It’s a fun and easy crop to grow with kids with a high re-sale value. If you are interested in starting a school garden market to raise funds for your garden program, garlic is a great way to teach the financial literacy of seed saving, growing, harvesting and selling!