When it comes to growing garlic, fall is the time to make it happen! Especially if you love traditional hardneck garlic.
There are two main types of garlic, softneck and hardneck. For fall planting in most climates – hardneck is the go-to choice.
Softneck varieties are best grown in warm, mild climates. They can be grown in the spring or fall, but are less hardy.
Overwintering softneck is simply not an option for most climates. In general, softneck varieties will store a bit longer than hardneck, but are more mild when it comes to garlic flavor.
Of the two types, hardneck garlic varieties are the most well-known for true garlic flavor. They are best planted in the fall, in climates with four seasons.
Hardneck garlic will sprout with early growth, then go dormant in the winter. They return to grow in the spring, and can then be harvested early the following summer.
Hardneck varieties usually have much larger cloves, and are thought by most gardeners to have more flavor.
Growing Garlic – How And When To Plant
Hardneck garlic is best planted in the late summer or early fall, depending on where you live.
Much like planting fall onions (see : How To Plant Fall Onions), garlic needs to have 4 to 6 weeks of growth before the first hard frost hits. This allows time for it to germinate before going dormant for the winter months.
When spring arrives, it continues its growth and is usually ready for harvest by late June.
Garlic can be mass planted in raised beds, raised rows, or a traditional garden set up. The key to good growth is to have fertile, well-drained soil.
Garlic can be purchase as bulbs from a local nursery or on-line via seed stores. You can also buy locally grown garlic at a farmers market and use as your initial seed.
Selecting Your Garlic
Each individual clove of a garlic head is a seed. To prepare the cloves for planting, separate each clove carefully, keeping as much of the paper skin in tact as possible. The outer paper casing protects the seed in the soil before it sprouts.
Before planting, soak the cloves overnight in water. This helps to speed germination by hydrating the cloves.
Some gardeners will also add a teaspoon of baking soda to the soaking mix. It is thought by many to help with germination, and also to prevent rot.
Preparing The Soil For Growing Garlic
Garlic is best planted with the trench method. Create a trench 3 to 4 inches deep, a few inches wide, and however long you would like your row to be.
Fill the trench half-way up with compost or a good potting soil mix. This will provide plenty of loose and fertile soil for the garlic to grow.
Plant each bulb down into the compost layer with the point end of the garlic clove facing up. The garlic tip should be covered by at least a few inches of soil on top. Space 3″ apart in rows.
To keep moisture in and weeds out, mulch on top with an inch or two of straw or shredded leaves.
Be sure to keep the crop well-watered, supplying water every few days to the soil until it germinates. As winter and cold temperatures approach, add a few more inches of mulch for insulation.
Garlic requires very little additional care. The plants will spring back as warmer temperatures return early in the year.
Hardneck garlic will shoot up long stems in late spring called scapes. They are quite tasty when cut and harvested.
The scapes should be cut back when they appear, as they will take growth away from the bulbs below if not removed.
The crop will be ready to harvest when the tops and foliage brown off. Hang to dry for a few weeks in a cool dark area, and then clip off foliage to an inch above the bulb.
The garlic will keep for 6 to 9 months, and can be used again as seed next fall.
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