Garlic is easy to grow and doesn’t require too much space in the garden. It can also deliver better garlic than you can purchase in the grocery store, but there is knowing when to harvest garlic, and what to do with it after.
Here we will see, how is garlic is grown and harvested, and the best ways of storing garlic, so it keeps the ideal condition for as long as possible.
Best Times to Plant Garlic
When do you plant garlic is one of the most asked questions. There are a couple of answers, but these deliver very different results.
Garlic can be planted in the spring when the ground is soft and can be worked, but planting garlic in the fall is highly recommended.
The roots of garlic develop during fall and over the winter, so when spring comes, they are able to support rapid leaf growth. This is vital for the formation of large bulbs.
One thing to note is if you live in regions that suffer from hard frosts. It is advisable to plant garlic 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost.
This should give the garlic enough time to develop a good rooting system, but not enough time to begin developing any top growth.
In a northern climate, this will be between September and November. In southern warmer climates, the best time to plant garlic will be around February to March. In all cases, your garlic should be planted in areas that deliver plenty of sun.
Best Soil for Garlic
When planting garlic bulbs, it likes fertile, well-drained soil that has a pH around 6.5 up to 7. If you have a garden where the soil is outside of this range, then you can choose a raised bed to make it much easier to loosen the soil, and with good topsoil, the pH levels will be in line without too much alteration.
These raised beds can still benefit from the addition of compost to deliver nutrients and to protect against deep frost. A good layer of mulch can also be added for protection against frost.
Garlic can also benefit from the addition of slow-release granular fertilizer. Although, if you wish to follow organic gardening methods, then turning in a good few inches of compost or manure can help.
Planting Garlic Cloves
Although you can get garlic from the grocery, you shouldn’t use this. It is recommended to purchase from a seed company or a local nursery.
The type from the supermarket might not be the best variety, and they will have been treated to give them a longer shelf life.
You need to break the cloves apart a few days before it’s time to plant your garlic. You might be tempted to remove the papery husk, but as much of this as possible should remain on the garlic cloves.
Cloves should be placed around 2-4 inches apart, and 2 inches deep in an upright position. The wide end (root side) facing downward, and the pointy end facing up. You then need to plant your garlic in rows that are around 10 – 14 inches apart.
One single row of around 10-ft can yield around 5lbs. of fragrant bulbs when your garlic is ready.
Garlic Plant Care
Thick mulch needs to be removed in the spring once all the frosts have passed.
To prevent decreased bulb size, cut off any green leaves (shoots) which emerge in the spring
Growing garlic needs to be fertilized in early spring through side dressing with either blood meal, pelleted chicken manure or another synthetic source of nitrogen.
Bulbs will begin to swell around early May because of more extended daylight hours. It is a good idea to fertilize again, just before this swelling.
Garlic plants don’t contend well with weeds, so keep your garden beds well weeded. Garlic is a heavy feeder so it will require fertilizing with Nitrogen if you see leaves turning yellow.
Watering needs to be carried out every 3 – 5 days during the bulbing phase (May – June). If these months are arid, then you will need to irrigate in the soil to a depth of 2ft every 8 or 10 days. When mid-June begins approaching, it is time to stop watering to such an extent.
Garden pests don’t affect garlic because it is a natural insect repellant. This makes it ideal for ornamental gardens to keep the pests at bay. Garlic can become affected by white rot fungus that attacks in cool weather.
There isn’t much gardeners can do, apart from rotate crops and clear up thoroughly at the end of the growing season.
Harvesting and Storing Garlic
This will be the time every gardener looks forward to. Here is how to harvest garlic, and how you can store it.
Harvesting garlic from plantings in the fall will be ready in late summer (July, August). To tell if your garlic plant is ready, just look for yellow tops. This is the time when to pick garlic as these begin to fall over.
Gardening tips recommend lifting a bulb. Garlic ready to harvest will be full of plump cloves and will be covered in a thick skin which is dry and papery.
You might be tempted to pull like with other root vegetables, but you need to see how to pick garlic the correct way. When it’s time to harvest carefully ease up the bulbs with a spade or fork. Brush off the soil and let them cure for two weeks in a shaded area with plenty of air circulation, or they won’t store correctly.
Hanging them upside down in bunches of up to 6 is the best way of curing garlic. To store garlic, remove any dirt and trim off leaves or roots. These can be stored in a dry, dark place for several months.
Recommended Garlic Varieties
These grow one ring of cloves around the central stem. These are resistant against cold, but hardneck varieties don’t store for as long as others. They also deliver a more subtle flavor.
This type includes purple stripe varieties that can be grown in flower gardens due to their tiny bulblets which grow at the top of a long stalk.
Korean Red, Duganski, Siberian, Music, Chesnok Red are some of the types Hardneck garlic you can choose.
These have a softer neck after harvest, and when you see them braided together, these will be softneck varieties.
This planted garlic is better suited to warmer climates as it isn’t as hardy against colder temperatures.
Great Headed Garlic – if you are looking for a garlicky taste, then this isn’t the type to deliver it. This variety is more closely related to leeks and provides an onion taste is anything else.