Garlic — flavorful cooking ingredient and healthful plant used all over the world!
Although widely available in supermarkets, homegrown garlic surpasses its commercially-grown cousins in both variety and flavor.
And, this bulb is best planted in the fall, so you still have plenty of time to get yours going!
There are reportedly over 600 different varieties of garlic! They range in size, shape, flavor, and growing conditions. This means that wherever you live, and however you like your garlic, there is a plant for you.
To begin with, garlic is broken up into 2 subspecies: hardneck and softneck.
- are best suited to cooler climates
- produce a flower stalk (scapes)
- come in a variety of color and flavor profiles
- require a little more help than softnecks for best production
- are divided into five varieties: porcelain*, rocambole, purple stripe, marbled purple stripe, and glazed purple stripe
*Porcelain is recommended as an easy-to-grow, hardy variety for novices in cold climates.
- are suited to a wider range of climates
- store well
- mature faster
- the stems are easier to braid than hardnecks, but cloves are more difficult to peel
- are divided into two varieties: silverskin and artichoke (the variety available in most grocery stores)
Choosing A Variety To Plant
The variety you choose depends on your growing region. Hardnecks thrive where winters are cold and summers are hot, so this is the variety I plant here in eastern Canada. Softnecks do well in warmer climates where the winters are mild.
If you still aren’t sure which variety to plant, take a look at where it was originally cultivated. Creole and Asiatic varieties do well in warm climates, where as cultivars developed in Russia grow best where winters are cold.
After climate, you can look to things like color, flavor, storage time, and ease of growing. Ask other local growers which varieties they like to grow — they may even be willing to share a few bulbs with you. If you can get your hands on several different varieties, plant them all and experiment with which grows most successfully in your garden.
Be sure to check out the great selection of both hardneck and softneck varieties from Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply. They are known for their garlic, bringing in varieties from all over the world, plus they have some of the best prices on the market.
Click here to browse their selection. Be sure to act fast to pre-order before they sell out (as they usually do!).
How To Plant And Grow Garlic
Garlic can be planted in early spring, but fall planting is recommended, especially for those in cold climates. Cold climate gardeners should aim for planting about 1 month before the ground freezes.
Here are the steps:
Choose the correct spot. Garlic needs full sun in order to develop good-sized bulbs. It does not grow well in the damp, so choose a spot with well-drained soil.
Enrich the soil. Adding compost or composted manure are both good choices.
Break the garlic bulb up into cloves. Leave the papery skins on each clove. This protects the bulb when you plant it.
Dig a trench about 4 inches deep.
Plant the garlic pointed side up. An upside-down clove will have a hard time breaking the surface. Softnecks are a little less picky about this, which is why commercial growers prefer them.
Leave about 8 inches between cloves. This ensures the development of good-sized bulbs. Closely-packed garlic plantings will produce more bulbs, but they will be smaller overall.
Cover the clove with about 3 inches of soil.
Throughout the growing season, keep the garlic moist, but never wet.
How To Harvest Garlic
When scapes appear in the spring, feel free to eat them! Some growers say removing the scape is essential to good bulb growth, although not all growers agree.
Once the leaves start turning yellow and dying back, your garlic is nearly ready. As soon as the first leaves start to yellow, stop watering your garlic. When about half of the leaves have yellowed, it should be ready to harvest. Don’t wait too long to harvest, or the bulbs will start to break apart. Gently scrape the soil away from a plant or two and feel if the cloves have developed. In most areas, harvest occurs in July, although it can be as early as May and well into August depending on the variety and when it was planted.
To harvest, gently loosen the soil around the bulb and lift it out with your hands. Pulling is not recommended since you may end up with a handful of stem and no bulb. 😉
Place your garlic in a dry place to cure. In hot regions, growers might leave the bulbs outside for this task. In wetter areas, a covered porch may be a better spot. If you grow softneck garlic you can braid the stems at this stage.
Within a week or two, your garlic should be sufficiently dried and you can trim the leaves and roots and enjoy your homegrown garlic!
Do you grow your own garlic? What varieties do you like to grow?
Looking for a great and affordable garlic selection, either hardneck or softneck? Head here to the “garlic shelf” at Peaceful Valley Farm and Garden Supply. And do pre-order because they usually sell out!
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