Garlic is easy to grow Garlic is a simple and wonderful thing to grow in your own garden. The bulbs and cloves are a welcome and healthful ingredient in many dishes.
Softneck vs. hardneck garlic Softneck garlic is what you’ll typically find in grocery stores, mainly because it can be stored for such a long time without sprouting. Softneck is also great for making garlic braids and has a relatively mild, simple flavor. Hardneck varieties of garlic are closer to wild garlic, with complex flavors. The skins or wrappers of many of these varieties tend to slip off smoothly, so they’re sometimes preferred for using in the kitchen. If you plant hardneck garlic you’ll also get to enjoy a garlic scape harvest. Most hardneck varieties will store for 6 – 10 months.
Amend soil in mid to late-Sept and plant any time during Oct in loose, rich soil In our corner of the country (the Pacific NW), garlic is usually planted during the month of October, hopefully giving the cloves enough time to grow some early roots before the ground freezes. This member of the Allium family appreciates soil that has been amended a few weeks in advance with a well-balanced organic fertilizer or compost. Plan to do the soil amending in mid to late September and then once your garlic has been planted it is best to cover over the soil with mulch – either straw or leaves.
Plant cloves 5 – 9 inches apart • Choose the biggest cloves for planting and save the smallest for cooking Plant each clove 5 – 9 inches apart, no matter how you lay out your rows or beds. Break bulbs apart into separate cloves just prior to planting and plant the root end down (usually this means the pointy side goes up), about two inches deep. Stick to planting only the larger cloves since smaller cloves will yield smaller bulbs, and use the smaller cloves for eating right away.
During Spring: Fertilize once and water regularly In the Spring when garlic plants are experiencing most of their vegetative growth, water regularly like any garden green (when it’s not raining, that is). Organic Nitrogen fertilizer should be applied at this stage of growth. When days become longer and the temperature starts to climb – typically in May – garlic is finished growing its green leaves and will begin to send energy downward to its bulb.
Cut garlic Scapes from hardneck garlic in May/June Hardneck varieties send up a flower stalk (AKA garlic scape, garlic curl, garlic bracelet, garlic spear) around May or June. Before the stalk begins to turn woody, uncoil, and stand up straight, the stalk should be harvested/cut from the plant about ½ inch above the top plant leaf. This helps direct the plant’s energy toward the bulb.
Harvest garlic crop in June/July when all but top four leaves have turned brown As harvest-time nears, the plants begin to dry and turn yellow/brown from the lowest leaf up and from the leaf tips downward, one at a time. Harvest when top four leaves are still mostly green. A spade, garden fork, or shovel is best for harvesting garlic but be careful to insert the tool far enough away from the plant that you don’t damage the garlic bulb.
Cure garlic for 3 – 4 weeks out of direct sunlight with plenty of air circulation Plants should be bundled in groups of 5 – 10 plants and hung inside out of directly sunlight with good air circulation. If fresh bulbs are left in direct sunlight for more than a few minutes they can actually sunburn or cook right in their skin! Bulbs are completely cured in three to four weeks in dry climates but fans may be necessary in other situations.
Store garlic in cool, dark location to prevent sprouting (do not store in fridge) Store your garlic as whole bulbs in a cool and dark place such as a basement or heated garage. Never store garlic in the fridge because it will sprout very quickly. Most garlic stores well at room temperature. Once planting season comes around again, start the same process over, using only the big cloves for planting and the rest for cooking.
Information adapted from Filaree Garlic Farm’s website.
For more information and details on garlic varieties, visit www.filareefarm.com