There are three great reasons to grow garlic. For one, the flavor of homegrown garlic is great, better than the supermarket variety. Two, the allicin compound in garlic repels insects, which means it is easy to grow organically without “bug worry”. In addition, you can also use garlic to repel insects from other plants in your garden. So let’s say that you have a rose-bush that attracts a number of rose-eating pests every season. Try planting garlic cloves next to the rose-bush (without crowding) to help keep the pests away. Third, garlic is super easy (and fun!) to grow.
Fall is the time to plant garlic. Unfortunately spring is too late. The suggested time to plant in cold-climates is between mid-September to mid-November. (Ideally planted 4 to 6 weeks before the first hard freeze.) In warm climates, garlic can be planted until January.
Where to Get Your Garlic
Theoretically you could grow the garlic you find in the grocery stores. But I don’t recommend it. These varieties are chosen for their durability, not for their taste. They often come from far away places and may contain pesticides. Instead choose organic varieties, such as those offered by Botanical Interests. Or your favorite seed vendor. Even your farmer’s market can be a good source. Talk with your local farmers about the different varieties they like. Choose big healthy bulbs that are blemish free.
Choose a Variety
There are many varieties of garlic available, with two different categories to choose from: softneck or hardneck.
Softneck garlic grows in a variety of climates and is the choice for mild climates. Stores well for 9 months. The only type you can use for braiding.
Hardneck garlic grows a hard stalk, with an edible scape at the top of the plant. It is known for having stronger flavors and is better for cold climates. Generally not recommended for mild climates in the South. Hardnecks generally keep for 3 to 4 months.
For my garlic this year, I chose a new variety, Purple Glazer. It is an organic hardneck sold by Botanical Interests. Described as having a sweet, bold flavor and is easy to peel (awesome). And I love the purple coloring.
How to Grow Garlic
Choose the site carefully, considering what will be nearby in next year’s growing season. Garlic benefits the following plants especially well: tomatoes, fruit trees, and roses. Garlic deters Japanese beetles, aphids, weevils, fruit tree borers, and spider mites. But it may slow the growth of beans and peas.
- To grow big healthy bulbs, the soil needs to be rich, well-drained, and amended with compost. Position in full-sun to part shade.
- Break the bulb and separate into individual cloves. Keep their skins on. Each individual clove will grow into a bulb.
- Space cloves 4″-9″ apart, with 12″-18″ between rows. Garlic does not like to be crowded.
- Plant cloves with the root end down and the pointed side up. Cover the cloves with about 2″ of soil.
- Add a layer of straw or leaf mulch for the winter time.
- Keep the bed weeded and watered until about 50% of the leaves are brown and it is time to harvest (usually in June or July).
Garlic is a fun vegetable to dig up and harvest. Enjoy!