All About Growing Garlic – Planting, Growing, Harvesting & Storage
Not only is Garlic a delicious addition to countless recipes, but it's also one of the easiest crops you can grow! As more and more people are becoming aware of how rewarding it is to grow and harvest Garlic, it's no wonder this pungently potent cultivar is all the rage in both kitchens and gardens. Not to mention, store-bought alternatives can't hold a candle to the complexity and depth of flavor in homegrown Garlic.
As a natural pest and fungus deterrent, Garlic makes a fantastic companion to various plants, including herbs, vegetables, flowers, and fruit trees. Plus, it doesn't take an expert gardener to harvest it either! By following a few simple steps, even beginners can grow these nutritious bulbs with ease. With a little guidance, you'll be ready to enjoy heady harvests of delicious homegrown Garlic in no time!
A member of the Allium family, Garlic is a bulbous perennial featuring individual cloves broken off from a whole bulb. Each clove multiplies in the ground to form a new bulb of 5-10 cloves.
Read on to discover everything there is to know about Garlic, including the different types, planting guides, growing tips, and how to harvest. We've worked with experts in the field to gather this information and give you several perspectives on how to make your Garlic dreams come to fruition!
This may or may not come as a shock to you, but there are several different types of Garlic. So, what type is right for you? Explore the three varieties below to find out!
Softneck - As the name suggests, Softneck types have necks that stay soft after harvesting and are best suited to regions with mild winters. As the most common variety found in stores, Softneck Garlic is excellent for braiding and produces a deliciously intense flavor. Softneck varieties include 'Silverskin,' 'Inchelium Red,' 'California Early,' and 'California Late.'
Hardneck - For those living in colder climates, Hardneck types are a fantastic choice. They produce delicious curled scapes in early summer, and although they have a shorter shelf life, they're worth every bite. Hardneck varieties include 'Korean Red,' 'Duganski,' 'Siberian,' 'Music,' 'Chesnok Red,' 'German Red,' and 'Spanish Roja.'
Elephant - As the name suggests, Elephant types produce massive bulbs with a wonderfully mild flavor. Closely related to leeks, this variety is less hardy than Hardneck types but will survive to Zone 5 when given deep winter mulch. If this sounds like the type for you, check out our amazing Elephant Garlic!
When to Plant
Regardless of which variety you choose, Garlic is often planted in autumn before the ground freezes and harvested the following summer. It's typically the last crop to be planted, which is perfect because, by that time, most summer crops have already been harvested, leaving some free space.
Bear in mind that wherever you plant your Garlic, that spot won't be available for other crops until the following summer when it's time to harvest!
How to Plant
Garlic favors an area with full, direct sunlight and loose, fertile, well-drained soil. Abundant harvests are dependent on adequate plant nutrition, so be sure to give your Garlic a generous layer of organic matter and a complete fertilizer designed for vegetables.
Start by loosening the soil to a depth of 8 inches and amend it with copious leaf mold quantities. Next, separate individual cloves from one large head and plant them 3 inches deep and roughly 6 inches apart. Make sure that the pointed tips are up, and finally, cover the cloves with soil. Voilà!
Around the time early spring songbirds arrive, green shoots will begin to emerge. That's your signal to gently pull mulch away from the growing leaves and sprinkle an organic, balanced fertilizer between each row. Help your bulbs grow larger by cutting off any Hardneck scapes that arrive in late spring or early summer. But don't worry, these aren't wasted efforts - soft, curly scapes are fantastic in stir-fried or sautéed dishes!
Keep the planting site well weeded and provide approximately one inch of water per week or every 3 to 5 days during bulbing. When the leaves begin to turn yellow, stop watering to harden the bulbs and prepare them for harvest.
Caring for Garlic isn't terribly tricky, and when done right, you can count on each little clove to produce one stem and one bulb, which in turn may include 20 individual cloves. Talk about a great return on your garlic-investment!
How to Harvest and Cure
Depending on location, your Garlic will be ready to harvest anywhere from July through September. While some gardeners swear it's exactly three weeks after the scapes appear, you'll know it's time when the leaves wither and turn brown or when the tops fall over. Of course, you can always check first by digging up one or two bulbs. If the Garlic has formed individual cloves tightly covered with papery tissue, then it's time to go ahead and reap your rewards!
When harvesting, carefully dig under the bulbs with your hands or a garden tool rather than pulling them to keep the stems intact. Gently brush off the loose soil without bruising the Garlic, which will affect its ability to store well, and allow to cure in a warm, airy, shady, dry space for three to eight weeks. You can tie the stems together and hang the bulbs or spread them out in a single layer - both are excellent curing options!
Winter Storage Tips
You'll know the bulbs are cured and ready to store when the roots are dry, the wrappers are papery, and the cloves are easy to crack apart. Remove any remaining dirt and trim off excess roots or leaves, keeping the clean wrappers intact. If you're not planning to braid the tops, you can cut them off now.
Garlic prefers cold, dry areas for storage, such as dark cabinets or basements that aren't moist. The longer the bulbs are dried, the more intense the flavor will be, and when properly stored, it should last until the next crop is harvested the following summer. If you're planning to grow Garlic again next season, save some of your largest bulbs to re-plant in the fall.
- Tags: How To Article
- Rachel Bortles