How to Grow the Best Garlic

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Growing garlic doesn’t have to be hard. Here are some easy tips on how to grow garlic in a vegetable garden.

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This post provides easy tips for growing garlic in the garden.

There seems to be a lot of mystery around how to grow garlic in the garden, but garlic is one of the easiest plants to grow.

Types of Garlic

The hardest part is determining what type of garlic you should grow in your garden. Choices include softneck garlic, hardneck garlic, Asiatic and Turban garlics, Creole garlic, and rocambole garlic. We’ll provide a brief overview of some of the types of garlic below.

Hardneck Garlic Varieties

There are two main types of garlic: hardneck and softneck.

Hardneck garlic varieties are hardy, and they are well-known for growing in northern or colder environments. Hardneck garlic varieties include Chesnok Red garlic and German Extra Hardy garlic. Hardneck garlic produces garlic scapes that are considered a delicacy at farmer’s markets and in certain restaurants.

Rocambole is a name given to hardneck garlics that tend to have purple coloring and thinner wrappers than other types of hardneck garlic. Rocambole garlic is known for having deep flavor that is valued by garlic enthusiasts. Examples of rocambole hardneck garlic include German Giant, German Red, Killarney Red, and Spanish Roja garlic.

Porcelain garlic is a type of hardneck garlic that is known for having thick skin and few, plump bulbs. Due to having a thicker skin, porcelain garlic varieties can be good for storage. Examples of porcelain garlic include Georgian Crystal garlic, Georgian Fire garlic, and Music garlic.

Softneck Garlic Varieties

Softneck garlic varieties can be grown in southern or milder environments. This group includes garlic varieties like Inchelium Red garlic and Lorz Italian garlic. Softneck garlic tends to have cream-colored skin, and it is often the most common type of garlic found in grocery stores.

Silverskin and artichoke are two garlic subgroups that fall under the softneck garlic category. Silverskin garlic is strongly flavored and stores well once dried. Varieties include Mount St. Helen garlic and Nootka Rose garlic.

Artichoke garlic tends to have milder flavor and fewer, but larger, cloves than silverskin garlic. Corsican Red garlic is a type of artichoke garlic.

Creole Garlic

Creole garlic originated in Spain and includes varieties like Ajo Rojo, Burgundy, Creole Red, Germinador, Pescadero Red, and Rose de Lautrec. Creole garlics may be drought tolerant and can grow in tough conditions. This type of garlic may do well in southern environments.

Asiatic Garlic

Asiatic and Turban garlics originated in Asia and contain a wide variety of strains. They often produce an umbel capsule that may produce dark purple bulbils. These bulbils may produce new plants when planted. Popular varieties include Pyongyang garlic, Sonoran garlic, and Korean Red garlic.

Asiatic garlic varieties are usually hardneck garlics, but should not be braided. Harvest the garlic as soon as the first leaves start to brown.

Turban Garlic

Turban garlic was once though to be related to Asiatic garlic, but studies have shown that the varieties are distinct. Turban garlic is one of the earliest maturing garlic varieties, and it grows well in warm climates. The bulbs have to be watched carefully for maturity, however, as they lose their wrappers if left in the ground too long. Popular Turban garlic varieties include Red Janice garlic, Shandong garlic, and Tzan garlic.

Elephant Garlic

Elephant garlic is actually a type of leek that resembles a garlic bulb. It is not a true garlic, but the flavor is similar.

Where to Buy Garlic

You can buy garlic to plant in the fall at many nurseries or garden centers. Farm supply stores tend to carry garlic to sell, also.

Many seed suppliers and individual garlic farms sell garlic bulbs for planting online. Check from mid-summer to early fall for information about ordering garlic cloves to plant in a garden. Garlic can sell out quickly, so it is best to inquire early.

How to Grow Garlic

Garlic is a long season crop that takes about 180 to 210 days to mature.

Plant garlic cloves in the fall, about before 6 weeks before hard frost when the soil is still soft enough to till. In most places, this will mean planting garlic in September, October, or November. In climates with mild winters, garlic may be planted as late as December or January.

Garlic cloves should be planted about 2” deep, with the root end pointed downward and the tip pointed upward. Each clove should be planted 6” to 8” from its neighbors, although we have had some success with planting garlic cloves slightly closer together.

Garlic can be grown in pots, making it a great plant for a container garden. Plant the garlic cloves in a large pot or container that is at least 8 inches deep. Garlic also does well in raised garden beds.

In northern climates or colder climates, cover the garlic pot or bed with a layer of mulch to help prevent the plants from freezing. Uncover the garlic in spring, after the last frost, so that growing can begin.

Keep garlic beds watered and weeded for the best growth. Garlic does not compete well with weeds. Add compost to the bed where you plan to plant the garlic in late summer or early fall before planting the bulbs.

Blood meal or a balanced (10-10-10) fertilizer can be used to fertilize garlic in the spring after it is planted in the ground. Side dress the fertilizer by working it into the soil about 3 to 4-inches away from the plant. Water well after fertilizing. Garlic plants can be fertilized every 4 weeks in the spring.

Garlic is ready to harvest in the spring once the lowest leaves start to turn yellow or brown. Other leaves on the plant may start to yellow, also. Check the garlic bulbs for maturity by June, since not all plants appear to die out when the garlic is ready to harvest.

In most cases, plan to stop watering the garlic plants about 1 week before you plan to harvest them. This helps to prevent rot in the plants. Plants should be monitored on an individual basis during this time. If they start to look distressed, then water may be required.

Sometime in the spring, gently dig around one of the garlic plants to inspect the bulb. The bulbs should be completely filled out and plump, and covered with papery skin, when the garlic is ready to harvest.

How to Cure Garlic

Once garlic is harvested, it needs to cure. Spread the garlic out in a shaded, dry, airy place away from direct sunlight to cure for 1 to 2 weeks until it is completely dry. The bulbs should have adequate air circulation and not be piled up on each other during this time.

Cured garlic bulbs can be used immediately or braided and hung for winter storage. Most garlic varieties will store for at least a few months if properly cured.

This post was about how to grow garlic in a home vegetable garden.

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  • Photos are for illustrative purposes only.

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