October is the month to plant garlic for next year. But how do you successfully plant garlic for a successful harvest? In this article, we will dive into the different varieties, how to plant and how to make ten cloves from one clove of garlic!
You have two main varieties of garlic, the softneck and the hardneck. Here we are talking about the stem of the garlic that extends all the way to between the cloves. As a result, the core of the hardneck is often not edible.
Differences softneck vs hardneck
The softneck variety often produces more cloves that are somewhat smaller compared to the hardneck which has fewer cloves but will be larger. In addition, the softneck often does a little better in warm climates.
The softneck also lends itself better to braiding should you plan to hang them somewhere. Almost all softnecks can be planted in October/November but the hardneck varieties can start bolting in spring so those are better suited to planting in March.
There are so many varieties of garlic over the years that it can be hard to choose but we’ll give you a little guidance.
We often get the question, can’t you just get a garlic bulb from the supermarket? Yes, you can do just fine and there are quite a few growers who do. Do try to choose a nice large garlic bulb.
If you just want a clove of classic white garlic you can choose the “Arno” or the “Cledor” (both softneck). These varieties are white and give a full strong flavor.
But as I said there are a lot of garlic varieties so you can also grow varieties that you just can’t find in the store. You have white, Creamy, purple and red and they have a large palette of flavors.
Varieties to try:
Therador (Mild flavor, very good yield)
Messidor (Large, white garlic)
Fokhagyma (Sweet flavor, beautiful purple-red cloves)
Elephant garlic (very large cloves, tastes more like leek/onion)
Actually, there are so many varieties that it’s all kind of fun to try, so time to search around for what’s out there.
Once you’ve made your choice between all the tubers, it’s time to plant. Take note of the variety and see if you are dealing with garlic bulbs that need the winter to form tubers. This does not apply to all varieties so check in advance when the variety you have chosen can be planted. This will determine if you need to plant them in October/November or March.
The softneck often can be planted in October/November and the hardneck often in March.
To plant the garlic, you must first remove the individual garlic cloves from the garlic bulb. CAUTION: You do not need to peel them. They can go right into the ground with their hard skin. Choose the biggest cloves you have, the bigger the garlic clove the bigger the garlic will eventually become.
Before the cloves go into the ground it is smart to loosen the soil for a while. Garlic likes airy soil. Should you have very heavy soil you can also choose to plant them in a pot or raised container.
Plant the cloves about 3 to 5cm deep and keep a planting distance of 10cm to 15cm and 20 to 25cm as a rule. The cloves should be planted (as shown in the photo) with the tips facing up. Cover the cloves again and now it’s a matter of waiting!
After about 3 to 5 weeks, the cloves will sprout and you will see the first green stems. Don’t be afraid if they stop growing in December to February, they form a strong root system during that time and wait for the nice spring weather.
After planting, the cloves don’t need any help at first. But depending on your growing method, it may be smart to give them some extra nutrition in the spring. Just general nutrition is often more than enough.
In addition to nutrition, it is good to remove weeds around tubers. If there are a lot of weeds between them, they may not grow as large as they should due to lack of space or nutritional deficiencies.
Something we run into with our clay soil is a lot of water in the spring. Garlic hates wet feet so if a lot of rain is expected it may be smart to cover them with some transparent tarp to create a low tunnel.
In the spring the garlic may want to bolt and start forming the flower. Well, garlic bulbs give a very nice flower so it can be nice to let a few shoot through. But since all the energy then goes to the flower instead of your tubers, it is smart to remove this stem.
You can see it especially well because it is a sturdy stem where a small bulb forms at the top. They are also known as stern hats.
The time has finally come, around the end of June it is time to harvest. The bulb doesn’t really form until the last few weeks of growth so as long as your plants are healthy it’s okay to let them sit. June 23 is designated as the harvest day for garlic so we usually stick to that date.
How can you tell if your garlic is ready to harvest?
Garlic is ready as soon as 4 to 5 of the leaves begin to die (dry and yellow in color). The best thing to do is to remove some sand and see how big the bulb is under the ground. Should they not be ready yet, sweep back the sand and check again later.
To harvest garlic, grab the garlic as close to the ground as possible and pull up the bulb in a twisting motion. This way the roots break off and you pull up as little sand as possible. The roots compost back into nutrients for the next plant going into the ground.
You can briefly rinse the garlic bulb with some water so all the sand is gone and then it’s time to dry them.
You can store garlic for about 6 to 12 months depending on the variety. To store them, you must dry them well first. This is done by hanging the garlic together with its foliage. Usually, the garlic is tied or braided together in bunches. This is best done under a shelter. Think of a woodshed or canopy. In the barn is also possible but we have noticed that they do not always dry as well or even mold.
Drying takes about 4 weeks. You can testes if it is ready by trying to break or cut a stalk. Once they are dry cut off all the leaves and roots and then you can store them in a cool place!