Garlic is a standout in the culinary world, known for its aromatics and delightfully pungent taste. Cooking with garlic arguably makes everything taste better, which is why it’s a favorite amongst gardeners who take pride in their at-home vegetable garden. The amount of dish options to cook with garlic are seemingly endless, from fish to chicken, pasta and potatoes, garlic is a staple in kitchens around the world.
Why Grow Garlic?
As if you need convincing to grow your own garlic at home, we offer a few good recommendations for growing garlic. One of the advantages of growing garlic is the wide window of time we have as gardeners to plant it – anywhere from late summer to early winter. Another advantage is the ability to save your yield for an extended period of time and enjoy cooking with it for many months. Garlic bulbs won’t take up a lot of precious garden real estate and you can reserve a small portion of your garden for it.
- Planting at the right time
- Harvesting at the right time
- Well-drained, moisture absorbent soil
When Should Gardeners Plant Garlic?
The right time of year to plant garlic is 4-6 weeks before the first time the ground freezes for winter, although there is a bit of wiggle room. Planting garlic as early as fall will still yield results.
When Should Gardeners Harvest Garlic?
Timely harvesting is also important, but a bit more precise. Harvesting too early will stunt the growth of the bulbs, while harvesting too late will create bulbs with a short shelf life.
Since garlic grows below ground, how can you tell when it’s time to harvest? The perfect time is approximately late spring to mid-summer, depending on planting time and weather conditions. A good indication of harvest time is in the leaves, when the leaves are half dead and half green.
Garlic Needs Well-Drained, Moisture Absorbent Soil
For best results, grow your garlic in well-drained, moist soil. The soil should also be loose, so loosen it up with a garden tool like a digging fork, digging the bulbs into the soil root side down. Plant the garlic bulbs 6-8 inches apart and about 2 inches deep. When it comes to watering practices, water when one inch below the soil surface feels dry or about once a week. Stop watering completely in the warmer months, when cloves are starting to form and need hot, dry weather to mature.
Choosing Which Type of Garlic to Plant
There are few varieties of garlic to choose from:
- Hardneck garlic
- Softneck garlic
- Elephant garlic
Hardneck garlic varieties have a sharp flavor profile compared to the other varieties, in addition to being hardier. The hardiness of hardneck varieties make this type of garlic the best option for gardeners who live in colder climates. Hardneck garlic generally grows larger bulbs with fewer cloves.
Hardneck varieties include:
- Glazed purple stripe
- Marbled purple stripe
- Middle Eastern
- Purple stripe
Softneck varieties grow best in a milder climate and have a milder flavor. Softneck garlic is better for storing purposes, so gardeners who want to store garlic long-term should choose this type. Softneck garlic generally grows smaller bulbs with more cloves.
Softneck varieties include:
- Blanco Piacenza
- California early and late whites
- Corsican red
- French red
- Inchelium red
- Silver rose
- Silver white
Elephant garlic is considered a garden leek and it’s drastically larger than hardneck or softneck garlic varieties. It has a much milder taste and it’s so large in size that it usually only has about five or six cloves.
Once your garlic is planted and harvested, storing your garlic for maximum freshness is the last step. Eat your garlic right away if desired, but if you want to use it well into the winter months, cure it before storing it. To cure garlic, spread out the bulbs and place them in a dry, well-ventilated area with no direct sunlight. After about 2 weeks, your garlic is cured and ready for storage so you can enjoy it for months to come.
We hope this guide to growing garlic helped our fellow gardeners who are interested in planting this fragrant culinary gem. With a little knowledge and some passion for gardening, growing garlic is as easy as pie.