- Grey Duck Garlic
- Garlic Planting Chart: When Should I Plant Garlic?
- All About Growing Garlic
- When to Plant Garlic
- How to Plant Garlic
- Harvesting and Storing Garlic
- Saving Garlic Bulbs for Planting
- Garlic Pest and Disease Prevention Tips
- Garlic Growing Tips
- Cooking with Garlic
- Garlic: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties
- Planting Garlic
- Guide to growing garlic
- Growing Garlic in the Home Garden
- Why Grow Garlic?
- Hardneck Versus Softneck
- Growing Requirements
- Care: Water/Fertilizer
- Curing and Storing
- Pests and Diseases
- Healthy Hardnecks
- Miracle Bulbs
- By Cleve Campbell
- October 2015 – Vol. 1 No. 10
One of the easiest crops I have every tried to grow is garlic. Why? Well, first of all, the critters (rabbits, deer, groundhogs, and squirrels) avoid it. Even insects generally ignore it. Plus, garlic has few disease and pest problems. Aside from a little weeding, garlic requires very little maintenance. And if your passion is organic gardening, it doesn’t get any easier than growing organic garlic.
One of the joys of growing garlic is that it is out-of-sync with most other vegetable crops; instead of contributing to the spring planting workload, garlic is planted in the fall. The taste of fresh homegrown garlic reminds me of the difference between a homegrown tomato and a tomato from the supermarket. And just like those supermarket tomatoes, the garlic you find in the supermarket is grown for shelf life, not taste. Without a doubt, garlic works miracles in the kitchen when added to soups, stews, tomato sauces, salsas, pickles, salads, salad dressings, marinades, mashed potatoes, seafood — hey, clams with butter and garlic! WOW! One has to search hard for a modern recipe that has onion but does not include garlic. A roasted bulb with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt turns into butter when you spread it over a slice of warm bread. Most cooks find it indispensable in the kitchen, and these days it is rare to find a recipe that does not call for garlic. In fact, a diligent researcher can even find a dessert recipe featuring garlic: “Roasted Garlic Chocolate Chip Cookies”. YUMMMMM!!!!
A Brief History of Garlic
Garlic is believed to have originated in the mountains of Central Asia, in the present-day counties of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan. Today garlic is found wild in Siberia and the slopes of the Ural Mountains. Garlic has been cultivated for thousands of years. Egyptian and Indian cultures refer to garlic use dating back 5000 years. Detailed models of garlic bulbs were unearthed in the tomb of El Mahasna, in Egypt, dating back 3750 BC. The Bible suggests the Israelites may have developed a fondness for garlic around 1500 BC — “We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt, the cucumbers, and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlick.” Numbers 11:5.
Today garlic ranks second only behind the onion as the second-most important Allium crop in the world. A plant, rich in history, that can fight disease, thin blood, reduce cholesterol, season a variety of foods, repel insects and vampires and is celebrated annually by thousands of devotees at numerous garlic festivals thoughtout the country deserves a spot in the vegetable garden.
Types of Garlic
There are hundreds of varieties of garlic, but generally, they are categorized into two different subspecies or groups: hard-necked (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon) and soft-necked (Allium sativum var. sativum). Each group has several distinct varieties and cultivars.
Hardneck Garlic With Scapes
Hardneck garlic produces a false flower stalk in the spring called a scape and is also known as “Top Setting Garlic” because it produces clusters of small bulbs (“bulbils”) at the end of the scape after the mostly sterile flowers bloom. Some garlic experts believe that hardneck garlic has move flavor than the more domesticated softneck garlic, and it is often referred to as gourmet garlic. Hardneck garlic does not store as well as softneck garlic.
There are 3 subcategories of hardneck garlic:
- Rocambole: the most widely-grown of the hardnecks, producing large cloves that are easy to peel. This is the only garlic that sends up a double scape loop. Killarney Red, Spanish Roja, German Gaint and German Red are examples of Rocambole varieties.
- Purple Stripe: named for the bright streaks and blotches on both bulb and clove skins. Purple Stripe garlic is milder and stores longer than the Rocambole types. Varieties include Chesnok Red, Persian Star, Siberian and Celeste.
- Porcelain: This type displays satiny white wrappers and has large cloves, but typically only four cloves. Has the longest shelflife of the hardnecks. After storing, they can be hotter than Rocambole. Porcelain varieties include China Dawn, Georgian Crystal, German White and Music.
Softneck is probably the kind of garlic that people think of when garlic is mentioned. It’s found on the grocery store shelves and in garlic powder and salt. The skin on softneck garlic is tight on the clove, making it hard to peel, but protecting it and keeping it fresher longer. Softneck garlic is productive in a wide range of climates and soils, out-performs hardnecks in warmer climates, and is usually easier to grow. Commercially grown because of its long storage attribute, softneck garlic is the kind usually found in supermarkets.
There are two major subcategories of softneck garlic:
- Artichoke: named for the fact that the cloves overlap, similar to the artichoke. They have a long shelflife but the taste can be hot. Artichoke varieties are easiest to grow and seem to be less fussy about growing conditions than other varieties and do very well in warm winter locations. Artichoke varieties include: Italian White, Inchelium Red, Polish White and Susanville.
Braided Silverskin Garlic
Silverskin: These are the longest lasting of the garlics and usually the last harvested. They can be very, very hot. This is considered the best variety for braiding. Silverskin varieties generally grow in most areas of the United States and if harvested and cured properly, can be stored for up to 10 months. Silverskin varieties include Chet’s Italian Red, Nootka Rose, and Sicilian Silver.
Central Virginia is in a transition zone and both hard neck and softneck garlic do reasonably well in our area. The hardneck varieties that have performed well for me are China Dawn and Red Killarney. Softneck varieties that have performed well in my garden are: Susanville, Polish White, Sicilan and Sicilian.
Elephant Garlic is not true garlic; it belongs to the leek (Allium ampeloprasum) family. In recent years elephant garlic has become popular due to the huge size of its bulbs and its milder flavor.
When to Plant Garlic
Garlic is planted in the fall. In our area mid-October is the recommended time for planting. Garlic requires a cold treatment period (vernalization) of 32-50° F. for about two months to induce bulbing. Garlic can be planted in the spring, but it should be refrigerated first for several weeks. However, smaller bulbs can be expected if spring-planted, because of the limited growing period.
Do NOT plant garlic that you purchased from the grocery store, as they may be diseased and are often unreliable because they may have been treated with an anti-sprouting chemical. There are numerous online retailers that sell organic garlic for planting.
Site and Cultural Requirements:
Select a sunny or partially shady location to plant your garlic. Good soil drainage is essential for a good garlic crop. One way to improve the drainage is by creating a raised bed before planting. The soil pH should be between 6.5 and 7.0. A light, well-drained soil also reduces the number of irregularly-shaped bulbs. Adding compost or well-rotted manure and mixing it thoroughly can improve heavy clay. Soil should be loosened to a depth of 6-12 inches. A field trial conducted by Virginia Tech resulted in a 35 percent bulb failure in a no-till field. Compare that to a minimal 5 percent loss in a conventional tilled field.
Garlic is a heavy nitrogen feeder; the recommended rate of application is 30 to 60 pounds per acre. Downsizing that number to a manageable garden space of 100 square feet equates to 0.07 to 0.14 pounds of nitrogen per 100 square feet. Doing the math for the standard 10-10-10 fertilizer, that would require approximately 0.68 -1.37 pounds of standard fertilizer. An alternative organic fertilizer of cottonseed meal (6-2-2) would require approximately 1.15 -2.3 pounds of cottonseed meal. Because nitrogen is “unstable” and tends to leach, one of the recommendations when using standard fertilizer is to apply a top dressing in the late winter (February) and again in March. Cottonseed meal is a slow-release fertilizer, so it may be applied when the garlic is planted and followed up with a top dressing again in February.
Garlic is also a heavy user of phosphate and potassium, and these elements should be added, as with other crops, only in accordance with a soil test. A free Soil Test Kit is available at your local Virginia Cooperative Extension Office.
In general, garlic, like potatoes, multiplies by vegetative reproduction rather than by sexual reproduction (seeds). Individual garlic cloves are planted and each clove them produces a cloned bulb, having the same genetic make-up as the original parent.
The planting process begins by carefully separating the cloves, just before planting, by removing the outer layer of papery skin, and then removing the cloves from the basil plate (the flat base where the roots originated). The papery skin on the individual cloves can be left intact. Select only healthy, firm, unblemished cloves for planting, and aim to use the largest cloves available. In general, the larger cloves yield the largest garlic bulbs. Don’t disregard the small cloves — they can be used in the kitchen, or frozen for future culinary uses.
Planting garlic clove- Plant at 1-2 inches.
Plant the cloves 1-2 inches deep with the pointed end up. Space the cloves 6-8 inches apart. Over-crowding the garlic may result in smaller bulbs. Each garlic clove will yield one bulb. When the planting is complete add about 1-2 inches of compost or leaf mold over the planting area to prevent moisture loss.
Garlic is a poor competitor, so good weed-control is essential. In general, fall and winter weed problems are minimum, though spring and summer will bring more weeds. Applying a couple of inches of mulch such as leaf mold or clean straw can help control the weeds. If weeding is required, use caution to avoid damaging the bulbs and roots.
If you are growing hardneck garlic, you may want to consider removing the scape when it begins to uncoil and straighten out. Removing the scape allows the plant to direct its energy toward bulb development rather than bulbils development. Depending on the cultivar, removing the scape can produce 25-30 percent or more in bulb weight.
Garlic requires about an inch of water a week (similar to other garden vegetables), during the spring growing season. Stop watering the plants about a month before harvest (when the leaves begin to yellow) to keep the papery skin dry and prevent the bulbs from rotting or splitting.
During late spring and early summer garlic can be susceptible to the same insects and diseases as onions and leeks — thrips and various bulb rots. However, garlic is relatively carefree when grown in a well-drained organic soil (5-10 percent organic matter), with good air circulation and if you stick to a 2-3 year rotation cycle with other vegetables.
Fall-planted garlic grows roots soon after planting, but top growth does not occur until the following spring, and the garlic bulbs are usually mature by early to mid-summer. Knowing when to harvest garlic is like knowing when to sell a stock in the stock market. At the end of the growing season — early summer — the bulbs are growing at their fastest rate. If the crop is harvested too early, the bulbs may be undersized, but if harvested too late, the thin wrapper that holds the bulb begins to deteriorate and the bulb itself begins to fall apart. Naturally, most gardeners are greedy, myself included, and want the biggest garlic bulbs possible, leading to that temptation to wait too long.
Garlic can be harvested in three forms: scapes, green or bulbs. In the spring, hardneck garlic produces a scape. Most gardeners prefer to remove the scape to allow the plant to focus its energy on the bulb. The scapes can be cut off shortly after the flower stalk curls. Harvested scapes can be used in cooking or salad, providing garlic-tasting greens similar to scallions.
When garlic is harvested before full maturity, it is referred to as green garlic. Green garlic can be used like green onions in salads or cooking. Bulbs are ready to harvest when the leaves begin to yellow or brown and fall over, but there are still 50% green leaves on the plant. Green leaves indicate that the bulbs are still intact and have not begun to break apart. If you wait until all the leaves have turned brown and fallen over, you have waited too long.
I usually dig up a few “test bulbs” before I harvest to check the wrappers. If they are in good shape, I wait a few more days and dig a few more.
When you pull the trigger and begin to harvest, carefully loosen the soil around the bulb to minimize damage. The preference is to dig up the garlic bulb rather than pulling it out. I am often amazed at the depth of the garlic bulb and the number of roots that have developed. Shake off the excess soil, keeping the wrapper intact. With more of the wrapper in place, the garlic will store longer. Do not wash the bulbs as that may encourage the growth of fungus and reduce the shelf life of the bulb.
Curing and Storing
Curing the harvested garlic will extend the shelf life of the bulb and strengthen its flavor. To cure the garlic, tie into bunches and hang in a shady, cool dry and well-ventilated location for 4 to 6 weeks. I often use a fan to increase the ventilation.
Once the bulbs have been cured, I sort the garlic, I save the largest bulbs to be planted the following fall, and the remainder I store in a dark well-ventilated area. I use a homemade screen that hangs in the basement and it works well.
Garlic is a seed savers’ delight. There’s no need to worry about cross-pollination because what you save and plant is a clone of the parent plant. In addition, garlic adapts to its environment, so the more seasons you plant your saved garlic in the same microclimate, the better it performs. I have noticed that after about the fourth year, the garlic appears to become happy with its new home and I am rewarded with larger bulbs.
What’s not to like about growing your own garlic? It will be fresher and tastier than those found in the supermarket, you’ll have hundreds of varieties to choose from — way more than what is available in the supermarket, pests mostly leave it alone, and other than a little weeding and occasional watering, it’s maintenance-free. On top of all that, because garlic adapts to local conditions, you’ll have the reward of being able to save your own garlic and plant it year after year knowing each year your crop will get a little better.
Thanks for joining us in The Garden Shed this month. We hope you will visit again next month.
“Garlic Production,” North Carolina State University, ncsu.edu/garlicproduction
“Garlic Productivity and Profitability as Affected by Seed Clove Size, Planting Density and Planting Method” HortScience, vol. 39 no. 6, pp. 1272-1277 (Oct. 2004) hortsci.ashspublications.org
“No-till Organic Culture of Garlic Utilizing Different Cover Crop Residues and Straw Mulch for Over-wintering Protection Under Two Seasonal Levels of Organic Nitrogen,” Virginia Cooperative Extension, Publication 2906-1389 https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/2906/2906-1389
“Growing Garlic,” University of Vermont Extension’s Vermont Vegetable and Berry Program, http://www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry/factsheets/Garlic.html
“Time to Plant Garlic” Virginia Cooperative Extension (Bratsch Tony), https://pubs.ext.vt.edu/2906/2906-1347
Grey Duck Garlic
Garlic Planting Chart: When Should I Plant Garlic?
One mistake many garlic growers make is to plant garlic at the wrong time. In our experience most people err on the side of planting too soon in the fall. Planting garlic at the proper time will result in bigger bulbs.
Picture: Chesnok Red garlic bulbs hatching a few free range eggs. Sadly, the idea of the Easter Garlic delivering eggs never really caught on.
Use our simple method to decide when to plant garlic cloves.
Check out the USDA chart below to determine your climate zone. Or go to the to see a cool interactive map which will tell you your climate zone based on your zip code and hair color (just kidding about the hair color). You may want to order your garlic to arrive a little earlier than you need it if you have variable winter weather.
General Guidelines for Garlic Planting:
Zones 0-3 (if no permafrost): Plant garlic in early to late September. Garlic can grow well in cold climates including some parts of Alaska.
Zone 3-5: Plant garlic in late September to early October.
Zones 5-7: Plant in mid to late October.
Zones 7-9: Plant in late October into November.
Zones 9-10: Plant from late October into December. Make sure to select garlic types (like softnecks) that need less cold vernalization to develop bulbs.
|Climate Zone||Earliest Planting Date||Latest Planting Date|
|0-3||Late August to early September||Late September|
|3-5||Mid to late September||Early to mid October|
|5-7||Early to mid October||Late October|
More Complicated Methods to Determine Garlic Planting Time:
Plant before ground freezes: Basically, you want to plant your hardneck garlic about 4-6 weeks before the ground starts to freeze. This gives the garlic clove time for root development in the fall. Contact your state extension service to determine average soil temperatures in your area. Remember microclimates make a difference in marginal areas. It is a lot cooler at higher elevations.
Garlic cloves need cold temperatures to root: Hardneck garlic needs 4-6 weeks of cold temperature below 40-45 F to develop bulbs. This is called vernalization. Softneck garlics are not as picky about vernalization which is why they grow better in the South. If you live in the South, please read this guide to Southern garlic growing.
Planting too early results in poor growth and bulbing: You don’t want to plant too early or the garlic may have poor bulb development or cloves may rot. Cold temperatures prompt the garlic clove to start growing roots. If you plant too early the garlic will not develop roots until it gets cold. Meanwhile the clove is sitting in the ground not growing and susceptible to disease, fungus or hungry voles. Exposure to really hot weather in fall can reverse the vernalization process and result in smaller bulbs. We always planted after the first killing frost.
My weather is really variable or I worry a lot: We don’t want you to get stressed out worrying about planting garlic. Order or buy your garlic early so it will be there when you decide to plant.
All About Growing Garlic
When to Plant Garlic
In fall, plant cloves in well-drained beds after the first frost has passed and the soil is cool. Cloves can also be planted in late winter as soon as the soil thaws, but fall-planted garlic produces bigger, better bulbs.
How to Plant Garlic
Choose a sunny site, and loosen the planting bed to at least 12 inches deep. Thoroughly mix in a 1-inch layer of mature compost. In acidic soil, also mix in a light dusting of wood ashes. Wait until just before planting to break bulbs into cloves. Poke the cloves into the ground 4 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart, with their pointed ends up. Cover the planted area with 3 to 5 inches of organic mulch, such as hay or shredded leaves.
Harvesting and Storing Garlic
From early summer to midsummer, watch plants closely and harvest when the soil is dry and about one-third of the leaves appear pale and withered. Use a digging fork to loosen the soil before pulling the plants. Handle the newly pulled bulbs delicately to avoid bruising them. Lay the whole plants out to dry in a warm, airy spot that is protected from rain and direct sun. After a week or so, brush off soil from the bulbs with your hands, and use pruning shears to clip roots to half an inch long. Wait another week before clipping off the stems of hardneck varieties or trimming and braiding softnecks into clusters. Do not remove the papery outer wrappers, as these inhibit sprouting and protect the cloves from rotting.
Storage life varies with variety and with growing and storage conditions. When kept at 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit, rocamboles store about four months, other hardneck garlic varieties usually last six months, and softneck and elephant garlic store for eight months or more. Hang your cured crop in mesh bags, or braid softneck types and suspend from rafters in a cool, dry basement or garage.
Saving Garlic Bulbs for Planting
Many garlic varieties fine-tune their growth patterns to the climate in which they are grown, so planting cloves from bulbs you grew yourself can save money and also result in a strain that is especially well-suited to the conditions in your garden.
As you harvest and cure your crop, set aside the biggest and best bulbs as your “seed” stock. One pound of cured bulbs will break into about 50 individual cloves, which is enough to plant a 25-foot-long double row.
If allowed to flower, some varieties produce fleshy bulbils (little bulbs) atop the flower stalk. Elephant garlic often develops elliptical, hard-shelled corms underground outside the main bulbs. Garlic bulbils and corms can both be replanted. The first year after planting, bulbils and corms will grow into small plants that can be harvested as scallion-like “green garlic” in late spring, just before the roots swell. If left unharvested, bulbils and corms develop into full-size bulbs in two to three years.
Garlic Pest and Disease Prevention Tips
Tiny onion thrips rasp pale grooves into garlic leaves, but they have many natural predators. Keep areas near garlic and onions mowed to reduce the weedy habitat thrips prefer. Monitor populations with sticky traps, and use a spinosad-based biological pesticide to control serious infestations.
Onion root maggots seldom infect garlic planted in soil where onion family crops have not been planted for two years, but the mobile adults may still lay eggs around the base of young plants. Where pest pressure is severe, dust the area around plants with diatomaceous earth in late spring, which is when the egg-laying females are most active.
Prevent fusarium and other soilborne root rot diseases by growing garlic in well-drained, fertile soil. Avoid injuring the roots when weeding, because diseases often enter plants through broken tissue.
Garlic Growing Tips
Experiment with types and varieties, because each reacts differently to weather and rainfall patterns. A spring hot spell that bothers one variety may benefit another. Our Seed and Plant Finder can help you track down the garlic varieties you want.
To grow garlic greens for cooking, plant whole bulbs 12 inches apart in the fall. In spring, when the greens are 10 inches tall, grab them with one hand, and use your other hand to lop them off with a knife. You should get two more cuttings before the plants give out.
You can make garlic powder by drying thinly sliced garlic at 150 degrees until it’s crisp. Grind to a powder in a food grinder or blender.
Cooking with Garlic
Without a doubt, garlic works culinary miracles when added to food. The pungency of raw garlic varies depending on the variety, and all types of garlic mellow when cooked. In addition to tossing chopped garlic into soups, stews, and stir-fries, try baking whole bulbs with a little salt and olive oil, and then spreading the soft, creamy flesh on warm bread. If you grow hardneck types of garlic, be sure to harvest the curled scapes that appear in early summer. Scapes can be eaten fresh, or blanched and frozen. Garlic can also be fermented as a whole-clove pickle. Check out this trial of nine varieties to try pickling garlic at home.
Contributing editor Barbara Pleasant gardens in southwest Virginia, where she grows vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers and a few lucky chickens. Contact Barbara by visiting her website or finding her on Google+.
Garlic: Plant Care and Collection of Varieties
With a strong, pungent flavor, garlic is prized for its wide and indispensable use as a kitchen herb.
You can buy garlic bulbs or sets from garden stores or mail-order sources. There are three types of garlic: Elephant, hardneck and softneck. ,Elephant, garlic is actually a bulbing leek and a good variety to look for if you want large, mild-flavored clusters. Elephant bulbs can weigh as much as 1lb. with 4-6 large cloves. Hardneck garlic will produce bulbs of 6-12 cloves while softneck produces 8-24 smaller cloves. Hardneck garlic does best in cold winter areas, while softneck garlic is a good choice for mild winter climates.
Choosing a site to grow garlic
Garlic is best grown in full sun (at least 6 hours a day) and well-drained soil rich with organic matter. Prepare the garden bed by using a garden fork or tiller to loosen the soil to a depth of 12 to 15 inches, then mix in a 2- to 4-inch layer of compost. Consider planting it as a border around your garden to act as a natural insect repellent. You can also plant it in rows between lettuce, eggplants, cabbage, broccoli or tomatoes. Keep your garlic plantings away from beans and peas as it could hinder their growth.
Like onions, garlic is great for wide-row growing. Plant the cloves the full depth of the bulb , three or four inches apart, and firm the soil. Try a row 10 to 12 inches wide. To grow big garlic bulbs, plant the cloves in late fall. They’ll mature the following summer. If you live in the North you can mulch garlic over the winter, but next season you’ll have to watch out for seed stalks and pick them off right away. If you have a long growing season, you can also plant the cloves in the spring as soon as the ground can be worked. However, the resulting heads will be smaller than fall-planted garlic. If you live in the South or Southwest, plant the cloves anytime from the fall through early spring. Plant early because garlic isn’t fond of hot weather. It doesn’t like competition from weeds, either.
Keep your garlic mulched and well watered from spring through early summer and remove competing weed growth. If you notice any flower stalks growing, be sure to prune them off whenever they appear. Removing flower stalks will help redirect energy to the bulb.
How to harvest garlic
Harvest garlic when the tops have only six to eight green leaves left or when most of the leaves have turned brown. Be sure to dig the bulbs within 2 weeks of the leaves browning, otherwise the papery covering surrounding the bulb will begin to deteriorate and cause the bulb to break apart . Pull the heads up and let them dry for a few days, and then cure them in an airy place, like onions. They’ll keep for quite a while at 40deg F to 60deg F. Braiding is an excellent way to store them.
If you leave garlic bulbs in the ground over the winter, you can decide to let them go to seed the following season. At the top of the seed stalk the bulbs will produce 10 to 15 tiny bulbs that you can plant — it’s fun.
Consider harvesting the leaves and flower stalks. With a mild garlic flavor, both the leaves and flower stalks can be cut and harvested. Do this sparingly as taking too many leaves and flower stalks will result in smaller garlic bulb growth.
Few flavors rival garlic’s. It’s pungent, exotic, powerful, and scrumptious. Garlic has also been thought to ward off of vampires and used as a cure-all for what ails you. Historically, many serfs were forced to grow it, as the king demanded it for taxes. Garlic has been a mainstay of most households for a long, long time.
Garlic is actually a highly unusual garden vegetable. Most of the things that we plant have a “season.” We plant them in the spring and we harvest them in the summer or fall. Garlic never stops growing. When it is in the ground, it is moving and changing. That’s why we have to harvest it in July—when it still has some protective layers of skin—and keep it dry until we go to use it or to plant it again in the fall.
The best garlic grows in the north. This is a hardy plant that actually thrives under the snow in the frozen tundra. We have our snow here in the northeast all winter long. Whatever falls from the sky going into winter stays on the ground until the spring. And, when that spring comes and everything outside is looking brown and dead, little green garlic shoots can be found poking up from their beds; all ready to go.
So, the time to plant garlic is actually six weeks before the ground freezes. Around here, that’s about mid-October. I generally plant my garlic where the potatoes were the year before. I have a three-year rotation of crops where plants in the same family only are grown in any given location once in that cycle. I like to give my plants lots of “extras.” By assuring that my crops have access to loads of organic matter and minerals, I know that this will translate into my veggies containing excesses of vitamins and minerals. These, then, will get into me.
First, I make sure that the garden bed is clean. Remove all leaves, twigs, weeds and rocks. Then I add soil amendments; these include kelp meal, greensand and Azomite powder. You don’t necessarily need to use all of these (Azomite powder is a bit hard to find). I also put in a bucket or two of old compost or seasoned manure. I proceed by using a broadfork (or a pitchfork) to loosen the soil. You want the “bed” to be light and fluffy so that the plants won’t have to work too hard to send out roots. Raking it flat, we are ready to proceed.
Be sure to get your garlic sets at a nursery and not from the supermarket. Many garlics sold for food are treated with substances that make it hard for them to sprout. I use a dibble to poke a hole about 4 inches down into the ground. If you don’t have a dibble, a sharp stick would do the same job. Breaking the garlic cloves apart with a not-to-sharp knife, I set one clove into the hole being especially careful to plant the pointy end up. Moving about 4 inches away, I make another hole and plant another one. Once I come to the end of the row, I start another one. I leave the holes visible until I have completed three or four rows so that I can place them the correct distance apart.
When I do cover them, I just push the dirt over the top. After I finish, I water well, ask the garlic to “live well and prosper,” ask the gnomes and faeries to take good care of them and go inside to clean up.
I do use an old lawn chair pad on the ground in order to stay dry and also make it easier on the knees. Most of the time, I just sit and work and this makes it much more comfortable.
I love to use fresh garlic in stir-fries. I marinate cut up chicken in garlic and tamari or diced steak in Italian dressing and garlic. Chop an onion or two, add some red pepper and fry until soft (I like them REAL soft so I do it for 20 or 30 minutes). Add some mushrooms and when they are soft, throw in the chicken or steak. When thoroughly cooked, I usually add some frozen corn and peas. A sure hit at my dinner table!
In the winter, I use my own homemade garlic powder. But for now, it’s time to get the garlic planted …
See more about growing garlic.
Guide to growing garlic
Where and When to Plant?
If you’re looking to grow your own garlic, the soil and temperature is crucial.
The best time to plant garlic on the Australian calendar is in March or early April in warmer climates. In cooler parts of Australia, spring is preferable.
In your garden, you should look for a spot exposed to sun. The soil should also be well-drained.
How to Plant?
1- Separate the cloves and plant the largest ones into moist soil, 15 cm apart. Push them in, pointy end up, until they sit just below ground level.
2- Apply a slow-release fertiliser at planting and against three months later. In spring, apply a nitrogen-based fertiliser to fatten out the bulbs.
3- Don’t water the soil until the cloves have germinated, which should be about two weeks after planting. Water often enough from then on to keep the soil moist but not cold and sodden.
4- Mulching helps keep weeds away and the soil moist. Use straw to about 3cm deep, which will fall to about 2cm over winter.
Rather than plant garlic bought from supermarkets, buy your bulbs from nurseries that have a range of named varieties. This way you can choose the garlic that suits your particular taste. And you can be sure it will grow.
Select an area where garlic or its relatives have not been planted the previous year, in full sun with fertile and free-draining soil.
You can improve heavy or sandy soil by turning it, working through manure or compost on top.
The soil should have a pH of between 5.5 and 7.
How and When to harvest?
Typically, homegrown garlic are ready about seven to eight months after being planted. Typical signs that garlic is ready to be harvested includes green leaves turning brown and flower stems beginning to soften.
If the garlic is buried close to the surface, you’re able to pull them out by the leaves. Otherwise, if too deep, use a gardening fork to carefully lift them out.
There are two main types of garlic: softneck garlic and hardneck garlic, with several types falling under those categories.
Softneck garlic is arguably the most common type that you’ll see in supermarkets. Generally a white colour, the skin is thin with multiple layers of cloves.
This variety has a strong flavour and is perfect if you want to grow garlic with a long shelf-life.
Identified by having fewer yet larger cloves, artichoke garlics can be recognised by sometimes having purple spots on its skin. Flavour is not nearly as intense as silverskin garlic.
Hardneck garlic has a much firmer stalk, a couple inches in length while the bulb carries over 100 cloves. Typically, this variety doesn’t last as long as softneck varieties.
Rich in taste, rocambole peels effortlessly. Doesn’t keep as long as other varieties, just six months.
Similar in flavour to rocambole, porcelain garlic only has several cloves covered by a white casing. Porcelain garlic tends to keep for around eight months.
Like their name suggests, this hardneck variety is identified by bright purple stripes on its outer layer. Purple garlic will usually last for six months.
It’s important that during the growing process, your home-grown garlic is well cared for. Choose a high-nitrogen fertiliser to help feed the plants. As the weather warms up after winter, garlic can form flower stalks. Ensure that you remove the stalks to maximise growth of the actual garlic bulb.
Growing Garlic in the Home Garden
Garlic (Allium sativum) has had a long and rich history of both factual and mystical properties. It is one of the oldest cultivated crops and has been a staple in many diets. Garlic is rich in antioxidants and beneficial compounds that are considered to have positive health attributes. One of the best ways to enjoy a variety of garlic cultivars is to grow your own garlic.
Why Grow Garlic?
Garlic is easy to grow and, if grown properly, has very few pest and disease problems in the home garden. It requires little space and can be planted in the fall after many other crops have been harvested.
Hardneck Versus Softneck
Although there are many types of garlic, they can be classified into two broad categories: hardneck (Subspecies: ophioscorodon) and softneck (Subspecies: sativum). As seen in Table 1, each category has several groups with their own characteristics and advantages.
Hardneck garlic is more closely related to wild garlic and typically has four to twelve cloves around a center flowering stalk. The hardneck stalk, known as a scape, is topped by a capsule referred to as an umbel that contains small aerial cloves called bulbils. Hardneck garlic is more flavorful and the cloves can be peeled from the skin more easily. The edible hardneck scape provides a milder taste in advance of harvesting the bulbs. For all these reasons, hardneck garlic is favored by gourmet chefs.
Softneck garlic does not produce a flower stalk and typically has more cloves per bulb since all the energy goes to produce the bulb rather than the bulb and the flower stalk. Softneck garlic is easier to grow and typically has ten to forty cloves arranged in multiple layers. It can be braided and generally has a longer shelf life than the hardneck variety—six to eight months as compared with hardneck’s two to four months. Softneck garlic is more likely to be what you find in the supermarket.
|Can be braided||Softneck||Silverskin|
|Uniform size cloves||Hardneck||Porcelain, Purple Stripe, Rocambole|
|Has a scape||Hardneck||Porcelain, Purple Stripe, Rocambole|
|Peels easily||Hardneck||Rocambole, Porcelain, Purple Stripe|
|Colder climate||Hardneck||Purple Stripe, Porcelain, Rocambole|
|Easiest to grow||Softneck||Artichoke|
There are many cultivars within each garlic group that grow well in New Jersey. Some examples of hardneck garlic that grow well in our area are Rocambole cultivars Killarney Red and Spanish Roja, Purple Stripe cultivars Chesnock Red and Metechi, and Porcelain cultivars Music and German White. Some examples of softneck garlic that grow well in New Jersey are Artichoke cultivars Inchellium Red and Lorz Italian and Silverskin cultivars French Red and Rose Du Var.
Growing garlic takes a bit of patience. For best results, garlic needs nine months to mature. In New Jersey, it is best planted in October, (three to eight weeks before the first frost) for a June/July harvest the following year. Planting stock should be stored at 50°F and 60% relative humidity before planting. Garlic requires a period of cold followed by a period of light and heat to reach harvestable size.
Select a sunny or partially shady location to plant your garlic. Soil conditions are important to proper growth and development of the bulbs. Good soil drainage is essential for good garlic production. One way to improve the drainage is by creating raised beds before planting. Soil pH between 6.5 and 7.0 is ideal. Garlic prefers light, well-drained soil to reduce the number irregularly shaped bulbs. Heavy clay and extremely light sandy soils can be improved by adding organic matter (i.e., compost, peat, or humus) to and mixing thoroughly with the existing soil.
Figure 1. Hardneck Garlic Scape amd Umbel. The Herb Society of America. “Garlic: An Herb Society of America Guide.”
Start with healthy, firm, unblemished cloves. In general, the larger the clove, the larger the resulting bulb. It is recommended to purchase cloves from a reputable source such as a seed catalog or local garden center, in order to get named varieties that are disease-free and best suited for the growing region. Do not use supermarket garlic for planting stock since they may not grow in this part of the country and are treated to prevent sprouting. Sample a few varieties to determine what works best in your garden.
Separate the cloves just before planting by carefully peeling the outer papery skin and removing the cloves from the base of the bulb, keeping the individual wrapper (tunic) and scab end (basal plate) intact. Plant the cloves 1–2 inches deep with the pointed side up. Space the cloves 3–6 inches apart in rows and 9–24 inches between rows. One clove will yield one bulb. When planted properly, less density yields larger, healthier bulbs since it allows for more sunlight and air circulation.
Add pesticide-free grass clippings or straw mulch to cover and protect the planted cloves from winter frost and heaving. A fluffy layer of fresh grass clippings about three to four inches deep is ideal. The mulch can be kept in place through the spring to conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Grass clippings also provide a needed source of nitrogen as it decomposes. Remove the mulch in the spring, leaving just enough to suppress weeds.
Garlic requires about an inch of water a week (similar to other garden vegetables) during the spring vegetative growth period.
Garlic can tolerate nutrient poor soil as compared with other garden vegetables, but benefits from fertile soil with the addition of organic matter such as compost or aged manure prior to planting. A soil test can help determine if additional nutrients are necessary. If no soil test results are available, composted manure may be added prior to planting, or apply nitrogen (1 lbs/1000 ft2), phosphorus (3–4 lbs/1000 ft2) and potassium (2 lbs/1000 ft2) prior to planting.
In the spring, additional nitrogen (1 lbs/1000 ft2) can be applied when the plants are 6–8 inches tall. Alternatively, foliar feeding done every two weeks from mid-March to mid-May may be beneficial. Feeding works best when applied a day or two after irrigation or a rainfall. Spray the leaves with a combination of 1–2% fish solution and .5% kelp.
Stop watering the plants about a month before harvesting (when the leaves begin to yellow) to keep the papery skin dry and prevent the bulbs from rotting or splitting.
Weeds are a major concern when growing garlic. Fewer weeds appear in the spring if the seed bed was properly prepared. Hand hoeing in the spring as weeds emerge is critical for good garlic production. Start weeding when the weeds are no more than one inch tall.
Garlic can be harvested in three forms: scapes, green and bulb. In spring, hardneck garlic produces a scape. There are differing opinions about whether to cut off the scape. Most growers prefer to remove the scape to allow the plant to focus its energy on the bulb. The scapes can be cut off shortly after the flower stalk curls. Harvested scapes can be used in cooking to provide a garlic tasting green similar to scallions.
When garlic is harvested before full maturity, it is referred to as green garlic. It can be used like green onions in salads or cooking. Bulbs are ready to harvest when the leaves begin to yellow or brown, plants start to fall over, and there is still 50% green leaves on the plant. Green leaves indicate that the bulbs are still intact and have not begun to break apart.
Harvest bulbs preferably on a sunny, dry day. Do not leave the freshly harvested bulbs in direct sun for more than a few minutes to avoid sunburn on the garlic. Softnecks are harvested earlier than hardnecks since they generally mature faster.
Carefully loosen the soil around the bulbs to minimize damage. The preference is to dig up the bulbs rather than pull them out. Shake off the excess soil, keeping the wrapper intact. By having more of the wrapper intact, the garlic will store longer. Do not wash the bulbs, as that may encourage the growth of fungus.
Curing and Storing
Curing the harvested garlic will extend the shelf life of the bulb and strengthen its flavor. To cure, tie the garlic in bunches and hang in a shady, dry, cool and well-ventilated location for 4–6 weeks. Once the garlic is dry, trim the roots but retain the outer skin. Brush off any loose soil and trim the stalks about 1½ inches above the bulb. Store bulbs for eating at 32°F–35°F with 65–70% relative humidity, such as in the refrigerator vegetable bin. While garlic may be stored at room temperature, these temperatures may cause sprouting of the bulbs, so storage life may be shortened.
Pests and Diseases
Although garlic is less susceptible to insects and diseases than most vegetative plants due to its natural resistance (primary compound Allicin), some possible insect problems are onion thrips, onion maggots, mites, armyworms, and wireworms. Some possible diseases are skin blotch, white rot, basal rot, pink rot, and viruses. Insect and disease problems can be minimized by selecting healthy planting stock, proper growing conditions, adequate crop rotation, and good sanitation practices. A minimum three-year crop rotation is advised. Never plant garlic in an area where onion and/or garlic have recently been grown and always discard, rather than compost, garlic wrappers and plant materials after harvesting.
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Story and photos by Mary Jasch
Walk into Roman Osadca’s barn and it’s not horses you smell. It’s that white papery bulb that wards off vampires and the common cold. Arranged just so on three rows of 4 by 30-foot drying screens piled three screens high, the garlic sits right side up, their stalks in the air, looking like little white soldiers. At the head of each row a large pedestal fan has been running day and night since July 4 passing air over the bulbs, drying and curing them, concentrating their flavor.
Now, the well-dried bulbs have finished developing their own flavors, unique to each variety. They await Osadca’s discerning hand for picking just the right bulbs for sale at any moment. Osadca grows 152 varieties of hardneck garlic at Valley Fall Farm for his family’s use; and just because he’s crazy about the bulb. He also sells to restaurants, chefs, farm stands and garlic collectors. Someday maybe next year he may grow more of the 600 globally-available varieties.
“Right now garlic is juicy and delicious,” says the State Fair’s Overall Grand Champion 2005 Garlic Exhibitor whose bulbs sport uniform size, color, and quality, and absolute perfection. “It has more garlic oil in it.”
Osadca dug his hardnecks out of the ground in July, but what happened before that started last fall. The process began as usual in mid-October he planted the cloves and within a few days they started to root. In the warm fall, each shoot grew two to three inches. By the time the ground froze, the roots were a foot long and the shoots hunkered down to stay green all through the winter. This spring, the garlic was the first thing to grow. The small cloves, each supported by a huge root system are in no danger of rotting, even during wet springs. Of course Osadca doesn’t plant in soggy soil, either.
With leaves and a shooting stalk converting sunlight to food, the hardnecks began to grow the rest of their cloves and turn into bulbs in June, but not a day before. Softnecks grow just the leaves. So, what’s the difference?
Softneck garlic is what you buy in supermarkets mass-produced because the plants are easier to grow in warm climates where the big food farms are. They also store longer up to a year in the fridge. They have no stalk in the middle; they’re low on flavor, hard to peel, and have several layers of 10-25 smallish cloves. A hardneck, though, is specially grown, has a tall stalk in the middle, exquisite flavor, a short shelf life, and a single ring of 4-8 large cloves with three times the anti-biotic content as a softneck. Plus, they’re easy to peel.
At the beginning of June, the hardneck’s stalk grows upward and goes into a 360 degree curl. It forms a swelling that contains a bulbil with 100-200 mini-cloves genetically identical to the mother bulb down below. The bulbil, the plant’s secondary form of reproduction, dries over the summer, falls over, opens up and spills its tiny cloves on the soil.
When the stalk was still young and green and the bulbil fresh in the curl, Osadca cut it off mostly to redirect the plant’s energy to grow a bigger bulb in the ground. If you leave the stalk with bulbil (a.k.a. garlic scape or garlic flower) on, the bulb will be 20 to 40 percent smaller. But don’t throw that bulbil away. It’s good to eat.
So in June he took the cut green scapes into the house, blended them up with olive oil, pine nuts and cheese, and made pesto. They’re also delicious on salads crunchy. He eats his garlic mostly fresh because he knows that when raw garlic gets crushed, two of the chemicals present in the bulb combine to make a sulfur compound that creates a potent antibiotic and also gives the garlic its taste.
“The best way to thoroughly crush garlic is by smashing it sideways to give it the maximum amount of macerating to combine the two chemicals,” says Osadca, a chemical engineer who works in quality control and production at Roche. If you want instantaneous flavor, smash it up. If you want slow release, slice it up and put it in a saucepan.
Cloves galore at the annual Garden State Garlic Gathering at Olde Lafayette Village.
The amino acid alliin and the enzyme alliinase make allicin, the garlic plant’s defense mechanism that tastes, smells, and feels bad to unwary predators except some humans. The two chemicals stay dormant when the plant isn’t handled, so the antibiotic and maximum flavor is saved to exist only at the time of use. “You get the most antibiotic by eating it raw at room temperature,” Osadca says. “Heat destroys the antibiotic.”
Once smashed, garlic, a.k.a. “nectar of the gods,” “camphor of the poor” and “stinking rose,” retains 100 percent of it’s antibacterial potency for 24 hours. After that, allicin changes and its antibacterial properties dissipate, but the papery antioxidant bulb still kills viruses, cleans arteries, dissolves plaque, thins blood, and lowers bad cholesterol. And for women, it cures yeast infections. To top it off, garlic goes after only bad bacteria, not the army of good guys in your intestines. Why would anyone not want to plant it and eat it?
Osadca and friends faced that very question three years ago when they founded Garden State Garlic, a loose organization of people who want to eat and plant great garlic, and learn about it. It’s on the web at www.garliconline.com.
Plant your garlic two inches deep, six inches apart, with one foot between rows. Garlic bulbs swell in the beginning of June and only grow until the summer equinox, being daylight sensitive plants. If you plant later, they won’t grow. Harvest the bulbs in late June/early July. If left in the ground, the paper breaks, dirt gets in and the bulbs rot. Good softneck varieties include Red Toch, Transylvanian, and Inchellium Red. Some of Osadca’s favorite hardnecks include Music, Legacy, Spanish Roja, Italian Purple, and German White.
Osadca’s advice to gardeners who will now want to grow garlic of their very own: “Some garlics from all over the world do well in Northwestern New Jersey soils and climate. Some need several years to acclimate and grow well. Be patient.”
This October, Osadca will be out planting cloves of rare varieties by hand in raised beds in an area the size of a football field. He’ll tag them, map them, test some, and just keep planting others to keep them propagated. Then he’ll hop the tractor and plant four more acres all in garlic. Want some?
Valley Fall Farm, 10 Old Stage Road off Rt.661 between Johnsonburg and Rt.94.
908-852-7362 or 973-235-8742
Nearby accommodations and attractions
- Forest Flowers of Musconetcong Gorge
- Orchard View Lavender Farm
- The Asbury Mill
- Hope, A Moravian Star
- Jenny Jump Observatory
Family owned and operated, Orchard View Lavender Farm offers “cut your own” lavender during the bloom season, handmade artisan lavender bath & body products, lavender culinary products, lavender household products, honey, lavender teas and tea accessories, aromatherapy jewelry, lavender essential oil, lavender baked goods, home decor and so much more. The lovingly restored colonial village setting is perfect for weddings, special events and intimate affairs.
101 Karrsville Road, Port Murray 07865, 201-341-8147
The UACNJ facilities in Jenny Jump State Forest, near Hope in Warren County, are 1,100 feet above sea level, one of the few dark sky locations left in the state.
Cooler temperatures mean it is time to plant garlic.
Gourmet Garlic Gardens in Bangs, Texas and One Tree Hill Farm in Claremore still have a few varieties available.
Bob Anderson of Gourmet Garlic Gardens is originally from Tahlequah. He and Darrell Merrell of Tulsa have been garlic growers for decades. Merrell used to put on a garlic festival in Tulsa and Anderson said that much of garlic information on his Web site, www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com, is a result of getting together with garlic growers at those conferences.
There are two types of softneck garlic: Artichokes and Silverskins. Artichoke garlic is the one that is celebrated at California’s annual garlic festival (www.gilroygarlicfestival.com).
Softnecks store well and are the easiest to grow into bulbs with 12 to 20 cloves per head. Silverskins have pliable necks so they are used for braiding. For a hot, strong flavor, get Nootka Rose and Silverwhite; for mild flavor choose Simoneti and Red Toch. Inchelium Red and Early Red Italian have deeper flavor, while Lorz Italian and California Late are stronger.
According to Anderson, hardneck purple garlic varieties are the best mild-flavored ones to roast. For mild flavor choose Siberian, for sweet buy Chesnok Red and Persian Star, and, if you prefer strong flavor choose Metechi or Skuri.
The amount of color in hardneck purple stripe depends on the weather when they were grown and does not indicate quality.
Anderson calls Creole garlics such as Creole Red and Ajo Rojo “unique and truly beautiful.” Creoles are tolerant of southern growing conditions, richly flavored and store for 10-months at room temperature.
Merrell said that Shantung Purple grows well here and is good eaten raw.
Elephant Garlic is commercially used to make garlic salt and garlic powder even though it is a leek. It is also available from Gourmet Garlic Gardens.
Garlic growing advice from Merrell and Anderson:
Anderson recommends soaking garlic then night before planting. (Mix a gallon of water with one tablespoon baking soda.) The next morning remove the skins, dip bare cloves into rubbing alcohol and plant immediately.
Merrell said to select a site with MINIMUM of eight hours of sun and enrich the soil with compost. In heavy clay, build a 1-foot-tall raised bed and fill it with good soil.
Mark rows and make 3-inch-deep holes, eight inches apart, in rows six inches apart. Plant one clove garlic, root end down, in each hole; and cover with soil. Mulch with grass clippings, leaves, or alfalfa hay.
Cloves will sprout through the mulch in 4 to 8 weeks. In March when leaves appear spray with a foliar application of seaweed and fish emulsion fertilizer at the rate of 1-tablespoon of each per gallon of water. Do not fertilize further and do not water after the end of May.
Harvest when leaves begin to yellow or brown — around the end of May. You can count the number of green leaves and dig when there are five remaining.
“Here in northeastern Oklahoma, some varieties, such as the Asiatics, are ready to harvest the first week to the middle of May,” Merrell said. “Hardnecks will be ready early June. It is better to harvest a little early than late.”
Dig garlic carefully with a spade. Brush off soil but do not wash. Group six to 10 heads in a bundle, staggering their heights so they can dry.
Tie together with string and hang in a cool, dark, dry shed or garage. If the air is still, run a fan on them. When thoroughly dry, trim the stems and stalks off the top to one-and-one-half inches. Store in net bags at 50 to 70 degrees. Do not refrigerate.
For those who were wondering, Bob Anderson said, yes, garlic will grow just fine in large pots.
“The mistake people make with garlic is that they think it should come inside in cold weather,” Anderson said. “Leave it outside no matter how cold it is and it will form bulbs. If you bring it into a warm house, it will mature too early when its cloves are still small.”
One Tree Hill Farm in Claremore gave out tip sheets at the Tulsa Farmer’s Market, which included their recipe for roasted garlic.
Whole Head Roasted garlic: Heat oven to 325-degrees. Trim off roots and slice off top. Remove loose, outer skin. Place head in ovenproof dish, drizzle with one tablespoon oil and one teaspoon water. Cover with foil and bake 15 minutes. Uncover, baste and bake another 15 minutes or until soft.
One Tree Hill Farm owners Phyllis and Tom DeWitt said they grow garlic because it is bullet proof. The DeWitts are planting 10,000 heads (yes, ten-thousand) of 25 types of garlic now. They are also planting 12,000 onions and 110 kinds of peppers!
The DeWitts have a limited supply of a few garlic varieties left to sell and they gladly help gardeners with planting information. Leave a message at 341-6920.
Korean Red — Asian softneck, considered one of the strongest; excellent grilled.
Chesnok Red — hardneck, stores five months.
Palawa — Philippine softneck, mild.
Siberian – hardneck, medium, highest allicin content. Allicin is reported to support immune system health.
To contact Bob Anderson at Gourmet Garlic Gardens: www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com, (325) 348-3049 or [email protected]