Growing Garlic

Many people GROW GARLIC in their home gardens. It's another one of those easy and fun crops to grow. Success comes easy, and you will have plenty to share with neighbors.

Garlic is a member of the Allium family which also includes leeks, shallots and onions. Individual cloves act as seeds. Alliums are what is usually thought of as the onion family.

The distinguishing characteristic of Alliums is their bulbous nature. This is apparent in some of the most common edible Alliums:

  • Garlic
  • Onions
  • Leeks
  • Shallots

Types of Garlic ~

Softneck Garlic: Well adapted to warmer climates. It is Softneck Garlic that you will usually find in your grocery store. Softneck Garlic stores and travels better than hardneck. The two types of Softneck Garlic you are likely to encounter are: Artichoke and Silverskins

Artichoke: Artichoke garlic is the most commonly grown commercial garlic. It has a couple of concentric rows of cloves and tends to be very difficult to peel.

Silverskins: Silverskins have silvery, white skins and are composed of many small cloves. They have a nice strong neck that is easily braided. The flavor of Silverskins is usually stronger than Artichokes.

Elephant Garlic:  "Elephant Garlic" has recently become more popular. Its called elephant because of its large size. It has a very mild flavor. In fact, Elephant Garlic is not garlic at all, but a type of bulb forming leek.

Growing Your Own Garlic

Garlic is grown from individual cloves. Each clove will produce one plant with a single bulb - which may contain up to twenty cloves.

Fall is garlic planting time. That means you must think ahead and plant the fall before your summer garden. Depending where you live, this could be September to November. Once the soil temperature has cooled off to about 60 degrees F. , the roots of the garlic clove will start to germinate and begin to take hold and anchor the plant. This is especially important in Northern climates where the ground freezes. Without sufficient time to grow good roots, the garlic plants will push-up out of the ground. A three to four inch layer of mulch applied after the ground freezes will help alleviate this problem. Straw is the mulch of choice because it’s cheap and easy to remove.

When planting garlic, choose a garden location that gets plenty of sun. Just like growing onions, garlic plants likewell-drained soil. The Raised Bed Garden is perfect for GROWING GARLIC. Plant the largest cloves you have, to get the largest bulbs. Plant each garlic clove two to three inches below the soil surface and about 6 inches apart (plant pointed-end up).

Your garlic should grow quite happily if these conditions are met:

  • Well drained soil
  • Soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0
  • Minimal weed competition
  • Plenty of organic matter
  • Plenty of water while the bulb is forming - mid-May to July

Harvesting Your Garlic Crop

As garlic reaches maturity, the leaves will turn brown then die away. This is your "cue" - it is time to harvest your garlic crop! If you harvest too early the cloves will be very small, too late and the bulb will have split. TIMING IS EVERYTHING!!

Dig, don't pull garlic out of the ground. Even if you planted a small clove, the bulb is now several inches deep with a strong root system. Correct handling of garlic after it's been picked is very important. It is critical that garlic is dried properly, otherwise it will rot. The bulbs should be hung up in a cool, dry place. After a week or so, take them down and brush the dirt off gently. Store in cool, dry area with good air circulation.

Saving Seed Cloves For Next Year

Simply put aside a few top quality bulbs to plant next season. Store bulbs for replanting at room temperature, with a fairly high humidity of about 70%.