Garlic tastes great.
It’s an awesome flavor added to many cuisines of the world. You love it and want to grow some in your garden.
But where can you get started?
Worry not. Because in this post, you’ll learn everything about growing garlic and getting the best harvest you can.
What is garlic?
The garlic plant is a member of the allium family similar to chives, onions, leek, and shallots. It’s a very easy plant to grow as long as you follow the basics.
The good thing is garlic requires little space to grow. So you can grow it even in containers if you live in an apartment and don’t have a garden.
The easiest way to grow garlic is from the individual cloves that you find in a bulb of garlic.
What are the varieties of garlic you can grow?
The main varieties of garlic you can grow are Softneck or Hardneck.
The softneck garlic is called so because the stem remains soft even after the harvest.
They are not as hardy as the hardneck ones and suitable for warmer climates. And they have a mild flavor.
The bulbs of such softneck garlic are big and grow around the main stem.
Examples of softneck garlic include varieties like Silverskin, Incherium Red, and California Early.
The hardneck garlic is called so because the stem is quite hard and cannot be braided like the softneck ones.
They are quite hardy compared to the softneck ones and easy to grow in cold climates. They don’t tend to store as long as the softneck ones.
And they have a more intense garlic flavor than the softneck ones. Examples of hardneck garlic are Korean Red, Duganski, and Siberian.
What is the best time to plant garlic?
You can plant garlic in early spring or fall based on your needs. But if you could choose, the best would be in fall.
You can plant the garlic and let it overwinter so the garlic is ready at the beginning of spring with big bulbs.
If your area gets frost, the best time to plant is 6 to 8 weeks before the 1st frost date. This gives the garlic enough time to grow strong roots but the top growth will only happen in the spring.
What is the suitable soil you can use to grow garlic?
The soil you use to grow garlic should be well-drained, loose, and fertile. If that’s not the case, you need to improve your soil by using organic matter like compost.
Remove the stones if any from the soil as they’ll prevent the garlic plant from growing well. It’s good if you can create a raised bed to grow the garlic.
The pH level of the soil for growing garlic should be between 6.5 to 7. Before planting the garlic you can add bone meal or fish emulsion as fertilizer.
When you plant garlic in fall, you should mulch the garden with a 6-inch layer of straw, dried leaves, or grass clippings.
How should you plant the garlic in your garden?
The best way to get garlic for your garden is from a farmer’s market, local nursery, or garden center.
It’s not good to use the garlic from a grocery store as they may not be suitable for your area. They may be treated with chemicals for longer shelf life but won’t support growth.
To grow the garlic, separate the cloves a few days before you want to plant. Don’t remove the papery cover that is present on the garlic.
Take each clove and plant it into the soil with the blunt end into the soil. The clove should be about 2 inches into the soil.
You can plant the cloves to be about 4 to 6 inches apart from each other. And the rows could be about 10 to 14 inches apart.
Once the garlic cloves are into the soil, put soil on top to cover them up and water them well.
How to mulch near the garlic plants
It’s important to mulch the garden soil when you plant garlic in the fall. This helps to keep the roots safe as the plant overwinters. It protects the garlic roots from coming out due to the freezing and thawing.
The mulch is useful to protect the garlic plants from weeds as they don’t grow well with competition. Even in the spring, light mulch can help with preventing such weeds from growing.
If your area has cold winters, it’s best to mulch with about 6 inches of organic material. This could be straw, chopped leaves, or grass clippings.
If your area stays warm, it’s OK with light mulch just to protect the plants from weeds.
How to fertilize and water the garlic plants
Garlic plants are heavy feeders. You need to give them good nutrients. Using nitrogen-rich fertilizer like blood meal, fish emulsion, or chicken manure is good.
It’s good to use more fertilizer in case you find that the leaves are turning yellow fast.
You should water the garlic cloves when you plant them. Garlic plants don’t need a lot of water once they’re growing.
Make sure that the soil is not dry though. So put your finger an inch into the soil and check. If it’s dry you need to water the soil.
You water every 3 to 5 days when the bulbs are growing. Once the bulbs have grown big, you want to taper down the watering. This helps the bulbs dry out and store longer.
How to prune the garlic plants for better bulbs
If you find the garlic plants are growing flowering scapes, you can cut them off.
This helps the plant focus its energy on growing the garlic bulbs instead of the foliage and flowers.
The young and tender flowering scapes are flavorful and eaten as food. The ones that grow big can be used as decoration.
The best time to cut the scapes for eating is when they’re about 4 to 6 inches long. That’s the time they have the best flavor and texture.
How to harvest and store the garlic
You know the time to harvest the garlic by looking at the lower leaves and the garlic bulbs. The leaves will start turning brown and the bulbs will have grown big in size. The covering of the bulbs is thick and papery
If you harvest the garlic bulbs early, the covering will be very thin and they won’t store well. If you harvest the garlic bulbs early, they will be cracked and not store well.
If you plant garlic in fall, the bulbs should be ready by next July or August.
To harvest the garlic bulbs, you should not pull them out. This will damage them and they will not last long.
You should use a spade or garden fork to dig the soil around the bulbs. Then take them out gently without damaging them.
Once harvested, you can keep them for about 2 weeks in a dry place out of the sun. This helps to cure the garlic and make them last longer.
After about 2 weeks, the garlic bulbs should be dry and the outer covering should be quite papery.
You can cut off the roots to the bulbs and you and cut off the tops as well. Dust off any dirt you find on the garlic bulbs.
If you find them too dirty for your liking, you can take a layer off the bulbs. Don’t take off too many layers as the garlic won’t store well.
You can store the garlic in a dark, dry place for months before using them. Don’t keep the garlic in a moist place or the refrigerator as they will rot.
If you want to use garlic cloves for the next planting, use the biggest bulbs and cloves for a good growth and harvest.
What are the pests and diseases that affect garlic?
The good thing about garlic is it’s a natural pest repellent. So most pests and diseases don’t affect it. But it does suffer from the same diseases as onions, chives, and shallots.
White rot could be a problem if the garlic bulb and roots get wet. So make sure the soil you use is loose and well-drained.
The best way to protect your garlic plants is to use crop rotation. Don’t plant garlic in the same soil for more than two years.
Tiny onion thrips are pests that make grooves into the garlic leaves. You can attract beneficial insects to your garden with plants so they take care of them. You can also use sticky traps if required.
Using mulch can help keep weeds to a minimum so they don’t attract thrips.
The onion maggots are another problem that can affect garlic. Crop rotation can help protect your plants from those.
If the insects tend to lay eggs around the base of the plants, you can use diatomaceous earth to get rid of them. Do this in late spring when the females are most active.
It’s time to grow some garlic and enjoy its flavor.
The first step you can do is to decide on the type of garlic you want to grow. This could be based on where you live and what flavor you enjoy.
Then you can start working on when and how you’ll plant the garlic bulbs in your garden.
It’s easy to grow garlic and soon you’ll have all the garlic bulbs that you need.