Garlic is a simple crop to cultivate. Garlic is grown in most areas of the country during the fall months. Many summer crops have already been harvested, leaving some free garden space in the meantime. Remember that your garlic bed will not be accessible for another type of plant until late next summer when it’s time to harvest the garlic you planted last fall.
Garlic Varieties to Consider
Choose the biggest and best heads from the summer’s harvest if you’re re-planting garlic from your own stock. Look for garlic that has been produced specifically for planting if purchasing. Garlic purchased at a grocery store may have been treated with a sprout inhibitor to prevent it from developing.
Garlic Comes in a Variety of Forms
A single, tight stem grows upwards through the middle of the bulb in hard neck garlic types. They have a stronger flavour and greater variety in flavour among the varieties compared to soft neck garlic types. They’re also more resilient, making them ideal for areas with severe winters. The bulbs have a shorter shelf life than soft necks when harvested.
Garlic varieties that don’t produce a firm central stem are known as soft neck garlic. This is the sort of garlic you can get at most supermarkets. It has a mild flavour. Softneck garlic is ideal for regions with mild winters and is suitable for braiding garlic.
The elephant garlic is a type of garlic that looks like a head of garlic. It does, in fact, belong to the same genus as true garlic, Allium. However, it isn’t “true” garlic but rather a leek cousin.
Garlic Planting in 6 Easy Steps
- Plan to plant garlic in the fall, four to six weeks before the ground freezes.
- To a depth of at least 8″ loosen the soil, add some slow-release granular organic fertilizer, and mix it in.
- Break up the garlic heads into individual cloves following fertilizing, carefully removing as much of the papery covering from each clove as feasible.
- Plant the cloves 3 to 4 inches deep, placing them so that their pointed ends facing up.
- Cover the bed with a 4″ to 6″ layer of straw after the soil has settled, and then water lightly. Even as air temperatures fall, the soil will be warm enough for the newly planted cloves to establish roots before the ground freezes. In the fall, you may notice green shoots growing; they are not harmful to plants and do no harm. They’ll begin developing in earnest in spring.
- In the spring and summer, keep the bed weed-free and hydrated.
One of the most challenging aspects of producing garlic is determining when it’s time to harvest. If you pick it too soon, the cloves will be small and underdeveloped (certainly usable but not as big and plump as possible). If you wait too long, the cloves will separate as the heads dry, reducing their storage life (not a disaster, but the cloves will be more susceptible to decay and drying out).
Garlic is generally ready to pick in late July, depending somewhat on the growing season and your location. The slide show below, which includes images from my own garden, depicts what to look for. It’s also critical to properly cure the heads, as you’ll see.