Growing Garlic this Fall
Garlic is one of the most loved/hated herbs on the planet. It is used in just about every cuisine on the planet. Flavorful and aromatic, it also touts a lot of health benefits too.
Growing it is not as complicated as you might think, although to do it right will take some time.
This is a long-term crop. While it can be planted in the spring for a fall harvest, the bulbs will not be as big as if you plant in the fall, before frost, and harvest the following summer.
There are two main types of garlic, and it’s up to you, of course, which one suits you best.
Soft necked garlic
Soft necked garlic does best in warmer climates and has a long shelf life, which is why you see it most commonly in grocery stores. It will have at least a couple of rows of smaller cloves on a decent-sized bulb.
Unlike hardnecks, these do not get a hard stem or develop scapes. The leaves stay soft, and when dried and cured properly for harvest, are wonderful for making braids of garlic to hang on the wall or in the pantry for storage.
Hard necked garlic
Hard neck garlic does super well in cold climates. It grows a long stem, and develops scapes, a sort of curly stem that eventually flowers if left long enough. When the scapes form, they can be harvested and made into pesto.
When cured properly, most hardnecks will last for several months, and my particular favorite is Red Russian, which I have grown with great success.
Hard neck usually has one row of cloves, around the stem, and depending on the type, can be smaller or larger.
When you harvest garlic, it needs time to dry and cure to store properly, and finish developing its flavor.
When the leaves start dying and turning brown, it’s time to harvest.
Whichever type you grow, you want to pull it up and lay it out to dry in the sun, enough so that you can knock most of the dirt off. I have washed it with a hose and then let it dry, but usually just let it dry and brush off any extra dirt.
You want to lay it out flat with airflow and some sun at least, although I don’t recommend extreme heat. Usually I make sure its where it can get morning sun and afternoon shade with breezes. If you have a nice garage or shed with good airflow this can also work well.
An inexpensive drying wrack can be made with some scraps of 2×2 or larger and chicken wire, as you can see here.
With hardneck, once the stems and leaves are dry and the papery husks are dry, use a sharp pair of kitchen scissors or pruners to cut off the stems just above the bulb. With softnecks, you can either braid them into ropes to hang, or trim off the leaves and store in an airy basket or bag.
For either type, cool, dark and dry will get the longest storage results for you.
Soil and Planting
Garlic does well in a variety of soils, but does best in well-draining, well-amended with compost, and a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Some bonemeal and bloodmeal can be a good soil additive for bulb development and growth too.
Plant cloves about twice their depth into the soil, cover and water, and then mulch over with leaves or straw for the winter. If you are planting in spring, then mulching once the shoots are up is very beneficial for water management and weed suppression.
What types of garlic do you like growing? Have any of these tips helped you out? Leave me a comment below!