I did a Google search on garlic and came up with 3,490,000 (that’s million!) entries. Obviously, this is a mighty popular little bulb and now’s the time to get it planted for a good crop next summer.
There are two types of garlic. Softneck and hardneck. Soft necks are the supermarket garlic. They are adapted to a wider range of climates and keep longer in storage. They tend to mature faster and are usually more productive. The stems are easier to braid but the cloves are harder to peel. Hard necks are more colorful, have a stronger flavor and have a wider variety to choose from. The Hard necks also produce a long flower stalk called a scape that is harvested when young and tender for use in stir-fry type dishes.
Garlic requires good drainage and full sun. To grow garlic, plant the cloves, which are the sections of the bulb. Each clove will produce a bulb. Although garlic can be planted in the spring, fall is the ideal time to plant. it allows for good root growth before the ground freezes.
Plant the cloves flat end down and the tip set 2 inches beneath the soil. Plant the cloves 4-6 inches apart. Top with a layer of mulch. You may see shoots in four to eight weeks depending on the weather. They stop growing in winter and start again in spring. Leave the mulch in place in the spring as it will conserve moisture and suppress weeds. Garlic competes poorly with weeds. When growth begins again, feed with a foliar spray every two to four weeks using liquid seaweed, fish emulsion or a liquid fertilizer like Miracle Grow.
Garlic requires about an inch of water each week during spring growth. Good drainage is essential to avoid root or bulb rot. In early summer, when the leaves begin to yellow, stop watering. Harvest when the leaves have yellowed and fallen over. Carefully dig the bulbs. Don’t pull or the stalks will break which may cause the bulb to decay. Once harvested, move into the shade as soon as possible. Dry by braiding or tying the stems together in a bundle of 6-10 bulbs and hang in a cool, dry area with good air circulation. Once dry, the tops may be removed and the bulbs stored in a mesh bag.
Fresh garlic contains vitamin C, potassium and phosphorus. Several major universities are studying garlic components for their impact on heart disease and cancer. In the garden, a garlic mixture can repel pests. Planting garlic around roses is said to repel aphids and a spray of garlic will help eliminate black spot and powdery mildew as it also has fungicidal properties. Garlic is definitely something you should try in your garden. It’s easy to grow and there’s nothing like spreading your own roasted garlic on some hearty, toasted French bread. Yum! If you haven’t grown garlic before, give it a try.