Garlic comes in two forms: Hardneck or softneck. Hardneck is the hardiest form that has cloves around a woody stem and shoots up a curly flower stalk. Softneck forms cloves around a stem that braids easily.
How to Grow Garlic:
Buy garlic bulbs at the nursery in late fall or early winter. Choose a site in your garden that gets full sun. Garlic will grow in any soil pH from 5 to 8, but it does best around 6.6 to 7.5.
Plant the cloves of the bulb directly into the ground about six weeks before the soil freezes. In mild climates, you can plant in January or February to harvest in late summer or early fall.
Plant only the largest, unpeeled cloves, pointy end up, about 8 to 12 inches in depth and 2 to 5 inches apart (discard any pitted or tinged blue-green cloves, which are signs of mold).
Top dress the plants with compost. Mulch again after the ground freezes to protect the plants from the cold.
Come spring, you’ll want to remove the mulch to enable the sun to warm the soil, then once growth begins, you can add a new layer. Cut back and remove the flower stalks (called Scapes) to allow the plant to put more energy into producing cloves instead of flowers. But don’t waste the scapes; saute them in a little olive oil or butter! They have a great mild flavor. Clip garlic leaves to use any time, but don’t remove more than 1/4 of the garlic’s top growth or it will reduce the bulb size.
Harvest in August through September when leaves of garlic plants turn yellow and die back. Carefully dig up the bulbs and lift them out with a pitch fork (don’t yank out of ground with the leaves). Take care to not separate the cloves. Cut leaves back 1″. Leave garlic to dry in a warm spot to cure for approximately 4 weeks. Store in a cool, dry place. (If you’re not sure when to harvest, dig up one bulb to see if cloves are filling up the skin. If so, it’s time to harvest.)
Genus: Allium (AL-ee-um)
Species: (sativum (sa-TEE-vum)
Category: Bulbs, vegetables, herbs
Height: 12-18″ (30-45 cm)
Spacing: 4-9″ (15-22 cm)
USDA: Zone 3a to 8b (-40 F to 15 F)
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Watering: Average water needs; water regularly; do not over water. Needs approximately 1″ of water every week. Provide extra water during especially dry periods.
Soil pH: 6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
Days to Maturity: 90-150 days
Sowing: Plant pointed side up and set 1″ deep 4-6″ apart.
Harvest: August-September. Harvest when leaves of garlic plants turn yellow and die back midsummer. Carefully dig up the bulbs and lift them out with a pitch fork (don’t yank out of ground with the leaves). Take care to not separate the cloves. Cut leaves back 1″. Leave garlic to dry in a warm spot to cure for approximately 4 weeks. Store in a cool, dry place. (If you’re not sure when to harvest, dig up one bulb to see if cloves are filling up the skin. If so, it’s time to harvest.)
Propagation: Dividing bulb’s scales
Seeding: N/A. Does not set seed. Flowers are sterile or plants will not come true from seed.
Problems: Fungus. To avoid fungus, space plants for good air circulation around stems and leaves. Most of he major diseases are found in the soil, so crop rotations helps produce healthy garlic.
Other: Deer resistant; suitable for container gardening
Try these varieties:
New York White – hardy and disease-resistant for northern regions
Russian Purple Glacier – Hardneck and winter-hardy. Rich purple striped skin. Best variety for baking.
Silver White – Softneck with easy-to-peel bulbs
Spanish Roja – Hardneck, Easy-to-peel. Outstanding mild flavor. Garlic of choice in fine restaurants.