The fall is the time to plant your Garlic.
The ideal time for planting garlic is three to five weeks before your ground freezes hard. If you are located in a southern region where the soil does not freeze you’ll want to plant late in November or December. Garlic will tolerate some shade but prefers full sun. Garlic also prefers a well-worked soil with good drainage rich, loamy amended with lots of compost and is a fairly heavy feeder that wants a good amount of Nitrogen available. Garlic experts recommend spreading an organic fertilizer or composted manure in the area where you will plant and mixing it into the soil well.
Don’t fear if your soil type is not perfect; garlic is a tough plant that can adjust to many soil types growing almost anywhere. Though Raised beds are ideal, except for in very dry areas.
To grow garlic, you plant the cloves, the sections of the bulb; each clove will produce a new bulb. The largest cloves generally yield the biggest bulbs.
After you ‘”pop” your seed by separating the bulb into individual cloves, plant the cloves in a hole or furrow with the flat end down and pointed end up about 2-3 inches deep with about 5-8 inches between each clove. Water deeply so that there is plenty of moisture for the cloves to start their root growth before the ground freezes. In climates with cold winters, mulch with several inches or more of leaves or hay.
You’ll see shoots start growing right through the mulch in four to eight weeks, depending on your weather and the variety you’ve planted. They stop growing during winter, then start again in spring.
Okay, now that you know how to grow, what type should you grow?
Garlic comes in two types Softnecks and Hardnecks.
- Softnecks are so called because the whole green plant dies down to pliancy, leaving nothing but the bulb and flexible stems that are easy to braid.
- Hardnecks have a stiff stem in the center that terminates in a beautiful flower – or cluster of little bulbs – then dries to a rigid stick that makes braiding impossible.
Softnecks, the standard garlics of commerce, are the easiest to grow in regions where the weather is mild. They keep longer than hardnecks, but they are less hardy and more prone to make small, very strong-flavored cloves.
Hardnecks do best where there is a real winter and are more vulnerable to splitting – or simply refusing to produce – when grown in warm climates.
I grow both varieties. I prefer softnecks only because of the unbelievable flower heads in early summer, but the hardnecks are great for the scapes (which are flowers stalks you can chop like a scallion).
My last batch of garlic I ordered from Filaree Garlic Farm in Washington, they are the foremost authority on all things garlic! I had great success with the cloves that I ordered from them. If you have any more questions about garlic I highly recommended checking out their site and contacting them. The owner has also written a book Growing Great Garlic a great book for gardeners and small farmers.
This year I am ordering a set of garlic from a more local garlic farm in Kentucky called Salt River Garlic that offers Heirloom Varieties. I am trying a culinary variety. I will keep you posted on how they do.