The Ins-and-Outs of Growing Garlic
Hi you all. How are you? We hope you are doing incredible and your week has started off great. I cant believe it's almost the middle of October. Breeding season for the goats will be here before we know it! The summer garden is put to bed , and you can (and should) be thinking about your Winter garden. This includes garlic!
Now we won't actually be planting it here (zone 6 a/b) until around Halloween- but you do need to take the time to either get some ordered (like now if you have not) or sort through what you grew last year and pick out the best cloves.
You have the choice between two kinds- hardneck and softneck. Within both of those there are dozens of different cultivars, but knowing the difference in hard vs soft is very helpful for choosing the right kinds for your zone. Softneck garlic is usually what you are finding at the grocery store. Those varieties tend to have a longer and more stable shelf life. Softneck garlic in my opinion is also less flavorful, or should I less more mild to the taste buds. It's a more "well-rounded" choice when it comes to an all purpose garlic. These do NOT have scapes. Softneck garlic grows best in warmer climates, however we do grow some here and we get some pretty harsh winters.
Then you have hardneck garlic. My favorite! We grow 80% hardneck here on our homestead. It does better in colder climates like ours. Hardneck garlic is the superior choice for colder climates because it requires prolonged exposure to cold weather of at least 40 days at 40 degrees F (or even less). This process is called vernalization. We also like hardneck garlic better because of the scapes! Those are the curly-q things that come up in the middle of the stalk. Usually a few weeks before the garlic is ready for harvest. It is like a bonus crop.
With all of that being said, play around with it. Garlic is SO easy to grow and once you start you won't stop. You will plant more and more each year. Trust me.
Now let's us chat about a few growing tips.
Garlic requires full- sun. That is considered at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. Garlic likes to be planted in a well-draining soil that has a neutral (or even slightly acidic) pH. By doing a soil test in fall, you can learn what and how you should amend your soil. We like to test in the fall because any major changes in your gardens in regards to the soil pH will take 3-6 months to be successful. But if you need to add a little something for your garlic, by all means please do that. We plant everything in raised beds. You are able to manipulate the soil and raised beds have better drainage.
Plant before the ground totally freezes, but not too soon! We plant usually at the end of October which is about 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes. Plant the best cloves! Pointy side up. Plant 4-5 inches apart and 2 inches deep. What did I tell you, super easy. Once planted we mulch with fallen leaves or old straw and LITERALLY leave it alone. I didn't water our garlic once last year. If you plant during a dry spell, you can water the cloves in well but then I promise you, you can leave them alone. The best sight is going out in early spring after the cloves have started to pop out of the ground, but you still have a blanket of snow on the ground.
Always plant more than you think you need. Get your garlic bulbs ordered asap if you haven't already. (In the past we have ordered from Filaree Garlic Farm- I just checked and they are low in stock in many of our favorites) Go ahead and amend your beds now if you have some empty and waiting.
We will talk about harvesting in 2023. Whoa. That sounded weird.
Mandi and Casey