Garlic Growing Tips Posted on 24 Sep 12:44 , 2 comments
Garlic is another easy crop that can be grown in just about any type of garden. It takes a little bit of planning ahead but it's pretty low maintenance.
At the bottom of this tutorial, you'll find a few videos about planting and growing garlic.
Instead of growing garlic from seeds, it is easier and more economical to grow from "seed garlic" which is actually cloves.
What is "seed garlic" you ask?
Seed Garlic differs from culinary garlic as it is usually larger and often times certified disease free. A Bulb is the entire head of garlic but the individual cloves are planted to form (grow) a completely new bulb.
Clove (left), Bulb (right)
Fall is the time to plant for best yields and highest quality bulbs. Generally plant in September–January. In very cold areas, plant by mid-October, and protect your crop with a thick layer of mulch such as straw. Expect to harvest it in June–July. One lb of garlic seed equals approx. a 25' row with 4" spacing between plants. For most garlic, expect up to 10 lb yield for every lb planted under optimal conditions.
Rocambole garlic has wrappers that are can be in color, such as German Red. However, color is not the only requirement for this category, as some varieties may be white or purple colored. Rocambole scapes are more tightly curled than other varieties. Most rocambole varieties produce 8 to 10 cloves per head.
Softneck garlic, also called artichoke garlic due to their numerous cloves that give them an appearance similar to the “petals” of an artichoke head, is the most common garlic due to its excellent storage characteristics. This is the kind you will find in grocery stores.
Softnecks are the most heat tolerant of garlic, and have a sweeter, milder flavor than hardnecks. If you’re looking to make garlic braids, this is the type to grow.
Garlic is usually ignored by wildlife (pests) such as squirrels and rabbits as they do not like the scent.
Preparing your Garden for Garlic
I have grown garlic in-ground, in raised beds and containers. While I prefer raised beds, it is possible to grow in just about any type of garden.
Before you get started, find a spot that will go undisturbed for for 6 months. October is a favorite month to plant garlic and we do not harvest until late June to July. It is best to rotate your planting area so this spot should not have had garlic growing there in the last 3 years. If that's not possible, be sure to amend the soil.
If you prepare in advance, it is recommended to amend the soil with aged compost and/or aged manure during the summer. Worm castings are another popular soil amendment.
Planting Your Garlic
Planting at the right time is definitely a bonus with garlic. If you wait until Spring, you might have smaller, immature bulbs if you harvest in July.
October and November are common times to plant garlic. If you live in a colder region, you might be planting in September.
As a general rule, plant your seed garlic 1-6 weeks before your first frost. Garlic is pretty forgiving and will tolerate frost and snow if properly cared for and mulched.
I found that I have harvested larger, healthier bulbs when grown in raised beds.
-Break apart cloves from bulb a few days before planting, but keep the papery husk on each individual clove.
-Ensure soil is well-drained with plenty of organic matter. Select a sunny spot.
-Place cloves 4 inches apart and 2 inches deep, in their upright position (the wide root side facing down and pointed end facing up).
Optional: soak cloves in kelp tea or worm tea 2 hours prior to planting
Caring for Garlic
In areas with heavy snow, mulch heavily with straw for overwintering. Mulch should be removed in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. (Young shoots can't survive in temps below 20°F on their own. Keep them under cover.)
Cut off any flower shoots that emerge in spring. These may decrease bulb size.
Weeds should not be a problem until the spring. Weed as needed.
Garlic requires adequate levels of nitrogen. Fertilize accordingly, especially if you see yellowing leaves.
Water every 3 to 5 days during bulbing (mid-May through June).
A note on garlic scapes: Some folks love cooking the scapes (the tops of hardneck garlic). Whether you trim the scapes or let them keep growing is your preference.
I love to cook up scapes with eggs or make garlic scape pesto. Yum!
Once you've grown your garlic and you're ready to harvest, hop on over to my article about Harvesting & Curing Garlic.