How To Grow Garlic
Thinking you might want to grow garlic this year? There are basically two types of garlic, soft neck and hard neck or topset (Allium sativum The hard neck types, also called topset garlic. Hard neck varieties produce fewer cloves, but the cloves are large. Soft neck varieties produce more but smaller cloves. Most garlic found in supermarkets are soft neck.
If you are wanting to grow garlic, it is important to know the different types, so you know what you want to plant. Many home growers prefer the hard neck varieties and claim they have more flavor. However, soft necks varieties seem to adjust better to a wider range of climates and keep longer in storage. The stems of soft neck garlic, make it easier to braid for storing.
While garlic can be planted spring to fall, the best time to plant garlic is in the fall about four to six weeks before the ground freezes.
Prepping To Grow Garlic:
When deciding where to plant your garlic it is best to choose an area with rich deep soil. Add in a few inches of well-rotted manure or compost to a deeply cultivated area you are going to plant. Keep in mind that garlic has to have nitrogen for good root growth in the fall. You can add nitrogen by using fish meal or alfalfa meal to your soil. Another good source of slow-releasing nitrogen can be found in soybean meal, try to use the organic type.
Make sure you start with a certified disease and pest free garlic that has been tested and is free of garlic bloat nematode. Garlic infected with nematodes will infect your soil, killing your garlic before bulbs mature. You may also start with garlic seeds however seed garlic is vulnerable to Penicillium decay.
How To Plant Garlic:
Separate cloves before planting, spacing them about 10 inches apart. The roots of well-developed garlic will spread out about 6 inches. Plant each clove 2 to 3 inches deep with the pointed end up. Garlic likes soil that is even but not too heavy in moisture.
The next step is to mulch with straw. A deep straw mulch will protect from frost and also chock out weeds. Garlic hates having to compete with weeds.
How To Feed And Care For Garlic:
In the spring free up any spears that are having trouble making it through the deep mulch. This is also the time side-dress with blood meal (2 to 3 teaspoons per head) for the next four to five weeks. Or you can foliar feed with fish emulsion using 1 tablespoon per gallon of water.
Hard neck garlic will send up scapes a few weeks before they are ready to harvest. Garlic scapes are “flower stalks”. You should clip these stalks before they curl. This will make the plant put more energy to grow garlic that is larger and more flavorful. Don’t toss the garlic scapes they are delicious, use them just as you would garlic.
After You Grow Garlic Here Is How You Harvest It:
Once the bottom leaves begin to yellow, it is time to harvest. Harvesting is best done during a relatively dry period. When harvesting, you need to loosen the soil gently around heads, pull from the ground and shake off the soil. Be gentle as garlic bruises easily. Harvesting should be done in the early morning or late afternoon, to avoid sunscald.
Then trim the tops and roots, and hang in small bunches or spread on racks. When garlic is completely dry (about 3-4 weeks), remove remaining roots and gently brush off any remaining soil.
Grow Garlic Next Year By Saving Bulbs:
Make sure to keep some of your largest plumpest bulbs for next years planting. Save only good quality stock avoiding double and sliver-like cloves, as these will create a double flat sided blubs. Also, avoid bulb slivers as they normally produce small bulbs of poor quality.
Store remaining garlic in mesh bags or braided in a cool, dry, dark place. Depending on variety and storage condition your garlic should keep for 6 to 12 months.