Garlic, it's got a special place in my heart. It's low maintenance, forgiving if forgotten in the garden, it's beneficial for you, with antibacterial, microbial, blood pressure and cholesterol reducing properties just to name a few. Learn more about how to grow, harvest and use this super food below.
Sun: Full Sun
Spacing B-Plants: 4-6 or 6-8"
Spacing B-Rows : 10-12"
Plating Depth: 2-6"
Days to Maturity: 80-95
Sow: Directly Outdoors
Planting garlic varies between types. Here I'm going to talk about the two types of garlic that we plant; soft neck and Hard neck.
We like to plant our garlic in mid to late October, depending on how cold the weather is getting November works for some warmer zones. You can't really plant garlic when the ground is frozen. I say this as I have tried. And trust me, it's not easy.
Prepare your garlic beds by adding the needed nutrients for your soil type. If you have loamy soil add bone meal. If you have poor soil conditions add aged manure and turn it in. Or if your like me, just plant those suckers and be done with it.
Once the soil is amended (or not) set your string lines for nice straight rows, next your going to plant your garlics, 4-6 inches apart for soft neck garlic or 6-8 inches apart for hard neck. Plunge the garlic into the ground about 2-6 inches deep, depending on your zone. our zone is 4a so we plant a good 6 inches into the soil. In zone 5a you could get away with 2-3 inches; so know your zone.
Our rows are about 3 feet wide, so I plant two rows within the 3 feet of space, leaving about a foot between them.
When the garlic is all planted you MUST add a layer of straw or hay on top. I call this bedding them down. You will need a good 6" layer to keep them nice and cozy over winter. Voila all done, for now.
In the spring you will start to see your garlics pop up through the bedding, keep the bedding in place unless you notice some not coming up. If that happens gently separate the straw or hay and coax the garlic up, sometimes they are just having difficulty coming up through the bedding. I like to keep the bedding on the garlic and most times I don't move it at all; unless they are struggling and I feel the need to add compost.
This is what it's all about, the harvest. With certain garlic you can get an early harvest. This is what I love about planting the hard neck garlic; they will throw up some curly garlic scapes, so watch for them. Cut the scapes off and eat them, this has two benefits, one obviously you get garlic to use sooner and two it forces the garlic plant to send the nutrients to the bulbs and not to making garlic seeds, which is what a scape really is. We make garlic pesto, add them to our salads, fry them with eggs or wat them raw. Use them like you would use your garlic cloves!
You know your garlic is ready to harvest when the bottom 3-4 leaves have died back. Using a pitch fork gently plunge the tongs beside the garlic (make sure to account for the bend in the prongs) and give it a pull towards you to loosen the garlic. Pull the garlics from the BASE of the plant gently wiggle if it's sticking. No need to clean soil off of the heads of garlic, this is done later.
Once all of the garlic is gathered lay them out on a drying rack, a table or a slatted surface to allow air flow to the garlics, you don't want any mold to form. You can also hang your garlic if you have the space to do so. A barn or covered porch work well for this. Leave your garlics in dappled sunlight if possible. In about 2-4 weeks your garlic should be dry and ready to process, If you have soft neck garlic you will want to braid your garlic before it dries completely, you should see the center stalk is still slightly green. Dry garlic has crispy "beards" (roots) and flaking papery skin.
To process your hard neck garlic you will cut the beards to about a 1/4 inch and the stalk to about an inch. Using the palm of your hand run your thumb gently over the bulb to remove any of the dirty paper (be sure not to take off too many layer of paper or you will have to use the garlic immediately) And store in a dry cool place.
To process the soft neck garlic, you will begin by rubbing the dirt off of the semi dried garlic heads, then braid your garlic alternating from right, eft and middle adding a new head after every pass, finally tie off the braid end and fold it over to create a loop for hanging; secure with wire. Allow your braid to dry further, then rub a layer of paper off to get clean looking garlic. Store in a cool dry place, or if your like me; hang in the kitchen (one braid at a time) and be amazed at the handiwork!
Did You Know?
Garlic is apart of the allium family? In fact its cousin to the onion, and chive. That being said garlic is companion plant to MANY plants, including carrots, dill, beets, spinach, potatoes, broccoli, peppers, tomatoes and cabbage just to name a few! Garlic deters cabbage loopers, aphids, Japanese beetles (potato beetle) gnats and more. This is truly an amazing plant.