Do you love garlic? If you’ve never had fresh garlic before you really should try to grow your own garlic. The taste is amazing really!
You’re in luck too because garlic has to be the easiest plant you can grow in your garden.
Why You Should Grow Your Own Garlic
If you’ve ever grown your own vegetables you know that there is a huge taste difference between a vegetable that is freshly picked before being eaten compared to a vegetable that was picked a week before under ripe and trucked across the country to your local grocery store. Garlic is just the same!
When you grow your own garlic you can enjoy it fresh from your garden starting in mid-July or dry and store it for winter use.
Types Of Garlic
Softneck garlic is best grown in areas where the winters are mild although it can be grown as low as zone 5. Softneck garlic doesn’t need cold temperatures to stimulate the clove to sprout. Most softneck varieties do not produce scapes like the hardneck garlic’s do but they braid easily.
Hardneck garlic needs a cold period to germinate so it’s best grown in northern climates. If you would like to grow hardneck garlic and don’t live where you have a cold winter you can simulate this cold spell by placing your garlic cloves in a cool, dry area that is 7 C to 10 C for 3 weeks before planting.
Hardneck garlic produces scapes in mid-summer. In our zone 5 garden, this is early July. The Scapes are the flower of the hardneck garlic. These need to be removed so the plant puts it’s energy into growing the bulb and not the flower. Luckily the scapes are a delicious treat!
Elephant garlic produces a very large, mild tasting clove. Each clove will have between 4 and 6 bulbs. It’s hardy to zone 5 and like hardneck garlic it needs a cold spell to germinate properly.
When To Plant Garlic
Garlic should be planted in the fall after your first frost has passed. In our zone 5 area of Ontario, we find the best planting time to be late September to mid-October. Softneck garlic can also be planted early in the spring but will be ready to harvest later than fall-planted garlic.
Garlic is a very forgiving plant to grow. It really will grow just about anywhere you plant it but it prefers full sun and nice loose, loamy soil. If your soil is hard packed clay the bulbs might struggle to grown and expand. Adding a few inches of compost to the top of your planting bed and then mulching well will really help your garlic to grow well if your natural soil is clay.
Prepping The Bulbs
Before you can plant your garlic you need to separate the bulbs into cloves. This is best done 24 hours or less before you are going to plant your garlic. It keeps the root noodles from drying out and your garlic will start to grow roots more easily.
For softneck garlic peel the outer layers of skin off and then gently pull the cloves apart.
To separate hardneck garlic you can do it the same way you separate softneck but there are 2 easier ways. One method is to hold the garlic clove in one hand and with your other hand hold the neck/stem of the garlic bulb and shake the neck back and forth. This loosens the coves from the stem.
Another easy way to separate hardneck garlic is to turn the bulb upside down and hit the neck part into a hard surface. Then peel the loose skin off and the cloves should separate easily.
Planting Your Garlic
You can grow garlic in a single row, double rows or in wide square foot planting beds. Garlic should be planted 4 to 8 inches apart depending on the variety.
If you grow garlic closer together you will have more bulbs per square foot but they may be smaller than garlic grown further apart. This will also depend on your soil type and how fertile your soil is.
We have grown garlic 4 inches apart in wide rows and harvested many large cloves if the area is nice loose soil that has been amended with compost and mulched well.
In our Back to Eden style gardens, we mark out our planting area and then rake the woodchip mulch back off the bed. We then remove any weed seedlings that might have been starting to grow.
Then we make planting furrows 4 inches apart and 4 inches deep. Into these, we place the garlic bulbs using a 4-inch spacing.
Once the garlic has been set into the rows we cover the tops with 2 inches of soil and mulch.
That’s it now you just have to let winter’s cold temperatures do their job and wait for the garlic to start poking up from the soil in the spring.
Have your grown garlic before? What’s your favourite variety?