How to Grow Garlic. Now’s the time!

Garlic is a fall planted crop that is harvested in July. So if you’re reading this in October, now is the time to plant your garlic or next year’s harvest.  (but if it isn’t fall, don’t worry you *can* plant garlic in the spring) A step by step tutorial on how to plant garlic!

Skip right to the instructions.

Many, many, many, several, too many to count … years ago, my father brought home some garlic.  He got it from an old Italian man at work.  Actually, I’m making up the old Italian man part, but it seems entirely possible.  And THAT is when my garlic growing obsession began.  I’m obsessed with many things, that’s how I’ve learned to do so much and why I can’t sleep at night because I’m always plotting, planning or cleaning up after my latest venture.  Occasionally I’m getting rid of evidence.

Any idiot can grow garlic.  Seriously.  When’s the last time you watched a television special on the “Remarkable Garlic Growing Person”?  Never.  Because you do not have to be remarkable in any way, shape or form to successfully grow garlic.

Same for bean sprouts. You can grow bean sprouts at home in 4 days. These are not difficult skills.

For growing garlic you just need some garlic and some dirt.  Or “soil” for you uppity types.   You also need fall weather to plant garlic (although even that isn’t a deal breaker – more on that later).   Ready?  Let’s plant some garlic.

The first thing you need to know is which type you should be planting: hardneck or softneck garlic?


What’s the difference between Hardneck and Softneck garlic?

Softneck garlic
  • Softneck garlic is best grown in warmer climates. 
  • Has no stalk that grows up from the centre and therefore doesn’t produce a garlic scape.  
  • Softneck garlic heads are generally smaller than hardneck and have smaller cloves. 
  • The head of a softneck garlic can be made up of multiple rows of garlic cloves.
  • Softneck garlic will store for 6-8 months if kept in optimal conditions.
Hardneck  garlic
  • Hardneck garlic is best grown in cooler climates.
  • It has a long hard stalk that grows up from the centre of the head, producing a scape in June and a flower head later in the season filled with little garlic bulbils which you can use as garlic seed. 
  • Hardneck garlic is larger than softneck and has bigger cloves.
  • Cloves form the head in a single row.
  • Hardneck garlic will store for 4-6 months if kept in optimal conditions.

 


So generally speaking, if you live in a climate where you get lots of very cold temperatures and snow in the winter, plant hardneck. If you live in a warmer climate with mild winters and hot summers, softneck garlic is for you.

How to Grow Garlic

side by side garlic

Separate your garlic head into cloves.  Just pull them apart.  Pick out the biggest cloves for planting.

garlic

 

The flat end of the garlic is the root end.

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The pointy end is the tip of the garlic. It needs to point up.

how-and-when

 

You want to plant the garlic “root” end down 2-3 inches into the ground.   The bigger the clove you plant, the bigger the resulting head of garlic will be.  If you sprinkle a little oregano on top of the garlic and squeeze a tomato over everything, in 9 months you’ll have grown a delicious marinara sauce.  

No you won’t.

time-to-plant

 

Plant the cloves so they’re around 4 inches apart and their tips are covered by two inches of dirt.
Cover them up and wait.  Through the fall the clove will start to develop roots and maybe even a shoot depending on how warm your weather is.

covering-garlic

By the spring with a little help from sun, water and these little guys to aerate the soil, you’ll have garlic plants starting!  A single clove, produces an entire head of garlic.

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Harvesting takes place in July followed by curing the garlic and properly storing it.

Heads Of Garlic

How to Grow Garlic.

Active Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 304 days 4 hours
Total Time: 304 days 4 hours 30 minutes

How to grow hardneck garlic. From planting to harvesting.

Materials

  • Heads of garlic

Tools

  • Trowel or shovel

Instructions

  1. Separate your head of garlic into individual cloves.
  2. Choose the largest cloves for planting.
  3. Plant the garlic, flat end down (the root end) in a hole that is 3-4" deep. When covered with soil, the tip of the garlic should be around 2" below the soil line.
  4. Fall planted garlic will develop roots underground in the fall and then go dormant through the winter. In spring it starts to grow again.
  5. In June, hardneck garlic will send up "scapes". Scapes are the tip of the growing stalk. Cut these off once they loop into a complete circle. Garlic
  6. DON'T THROW THE SCAPES OUT. You can use them for cooking or making a DELICIOUS garlic scape pesto.
  7. Stop watering your garlic 2 weeks before you harvest. (Around the time the lower leaves on the plant have turned brown.)
  8. Dig garlic up in July when one half of the leaves are brown. This indicates the garlic is ready to be harvested.
  9. Cure your garlic by hanging it in a well ventilated, shaded area like a porch. Leave it to dry for 2 weeks. This curing process will help your garlic to store much longer.
  10. Once cured you can cut the roots off of your garlic and the stem, leaving 1-2" of stem above the bulb.
  11. Store garlic between 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit. A humidity level of 65% is the best.

Notes

  • The bigger the clove you plant the bigger the head of garlic will be.
  • If properly stored hardneck garlic will store for around 6 months.
  • You can also freeze your garlic cloves. Just separate the cloves and put them in a freezer safe container. Do not remove the skins, they're a protective layer.
  • Want garlic powder? Dry extra garlic in a dehydrator and then grind it into homemade garlic powder.
  • Softneck garlic is planted and grown the exact same way except it's planted in the spring and there are no scapes to remove.
  • If you missed the fall planting for your garlic, don't worry! You can still plant it in the spring and get a good garlic harvest. A gardener at my community garden does this every year. Your garlic heads may just be a little smaller than fall planted garlic.

Garlic Tips

 

  1. Despite what you may have read on the Internet, you can just buy garlic for planting at the grocery store.  As long as the garlic hasn’t been treated with anything to keep it from sprouting you’ll be fine.  As a little experiment, I bought 2 heads of garlic from my produce aisle.  One bulb of regular giant garlic and a package of smaller, organic garlic.  Both of them sprouted and grew. HOWEVER note that most grocery store garlic is not locally produced and can introduce new disease to your soil. 
  2. For the best quality garlic you should buy locally sourced garlic heads that do well in your growing area. Music, Russian Red, and Chesnok Red are all popular hardneck varieties. Italian softneck is a standard softneck variety.
  3. If you forgot to plant your garlic in the fall you can also do it in the spring!  But hardneck varieties do best when they have a period of “cold”.  So stick the planting bulbs in a refrigerator 2 weeks prior to planting them out in the spring. The cold will trigger them to come out of dormancy and sprout when you remove them from the fridge.
  4. Stop watering your garlic 2 weeks before you harvest. Around the time the lower leaves on the plant have turned brown.
  5. Garlic dies from the bottom of the stem up. It’s time to dig up your garlic when the bottom half of the leaves have turned brown.   
  6. Don’t pull your garlic out of the ground, dig it.  Otherwise you may break the head apart.
  7. Store your garlic in a well ventilated area that’s 55-60 degrees Fahrenheit and 65% humidity.
  8. If you  have extra garlic you can stick unpeeled cloves in the freezer, or dehydrate them in a dehydrator to make garlic powder.

 


I use an Excalibur dehydrator (it’s pretty much what most dehydrating enthusiasts use) for all my dehydrating projects. You can take a look at the Excalibur dehydrator here (this one is white, but mine is black.)

Hands down my favourite garlic recipe is actually one that doesn’t use any garlic at all! It uses the garlic scapes I harvest in June. My garlic scape pesto is delicious on pasta or pizza and stores for a year in the freezer!

Now that you have all the information you need on how to grow garlic so get out there and get your hands dirty.  Or for the more refined among you – soily.  

 
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