Garlic: Planting, Growing and Harvesting

This is a picture of hard necked garlic taken, July 3, 2020. The scapes have been removed and eaten. The leaves have not started to yellow at this point. You will see lettuce and green onions growing at the base of the garlic. Garlic does not cast shade and does not take up a lot of space so if you are short of gardening space, use the room in between to grow other vegetables that do not require a lot of space for roots. Just be careful not to damage the garlic bulbs when planting and harvesting these companions.  

Choosing and Planting Garlic

There are two kinds of garlic, hard neck and soft neck. Hard neck varieties have the strongest flavour and are easier to peel. They also provide scapes that can be harvested during the summer. Soft neck varieties keep the longest. There are many varieties of both hard and soft necked garlic. You will have to try them and see what works best for you. Talk to your supplier about the variety to find out if it keeps well, how hot it is, etc.  I like to buy my seed at the farmer’s market, that way I can talk to the grower and decide what qualities I want.    

Garlic needs a chilling period so it is best planted in late autumn. Buy your bulbs from your local garden centre or a local farmer’s market. You will have best luck with garlic grown locally so avoid planting grocery store garlic.  Once you have started growing your own garlic, and have found a variety that grows well in your garden, keep a couple of your own bulbs and replant it.

Choose a sunny, well drained site. Before you plant, dig in some well-rotted organic matter. Pull the bulb apart and plant individual cloves so the tips are about 1 inch below the surface. Space the cloves about 6 inches apart in rows about 12 inches apart. Be sure to mark the location so that in the spring you do not disturb the cloves that are going to begin to sprout.

Caring For Garlic

During the summer, you may want to water during dry spells but stop watering once the bulbs are large and well formed. Watering at this stage could result in rotting. When you weed your garlic, do so by hand to avoid damaging the bulbs with tools.

Garlic leaf rust can be devestating to your crop. Once you have it, it stays in the soil for many years. The best way to avoid it is to not bring it in. Make sure that you know the source of your garlic seed.

Harvesting Garlic

Hard Neck Garlic is ready to harvest when about 1/2 to 2/3 of the leaves look yellow and dry. Soft neck garlic is ready to harvest after the necks have whithered and the leaves fall over.

After harvesting, keep the bulbs in a warm dry place (not in the sun) for about 3 weeks to cure. Bulbs should be braided or tied in a bunch and hung or spread on trays, single layer deep. After 3 weeks, rub the skins to loosen any that will fall off and to remove dirt. Store in a cool dry place, ideally just above freezing. It is best to continue to store the garlic by hanging in bunches, braided or in net bags.

authored by Carol Anderson

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