by Connie Oswald Stofko
I grow garlic– lots of it. And I recommend that you try growing garlic, too.
Here are six reasons why you should grow garlic:
- Garlic is so easy to grow! You plant it, then you sit around for several months, then you harvest it. I haven’t been able to grow zucchini, but I can grow garlic.
- You have a wide window for planting. You can plant anywhere from August through November– even into December if the weather is mild. There’s not much to do in the garden in autumn, so it’s nice to be able to plant garlic.
- You get two harvests every year. In spring, you harvest the garlic scapes, then in summer, you harvest the garlic bulbs.
- You can have garlic on hand for months without having to can or freeze it. You can’t do that with tomatoes!
- Garlic doesn’t take up much space in your garden. With just a small patch, you can get enough garlic for yourself and still have plenty to share.
- Garlic is delicious. (What else can I say about that?)
How to plant garlic
The part you eat is the part you plant. One clove of garlic is like one seed.
If you buy garlic in the supermarket, it may have originated in another country and may have been fumigated, so it may not grow. For growing, use organic garlic. You can also find garlic for growing at some garden centers. (See our Gardening Directory for contact information to find out who has it in stock.)
Plant the clove of garlic with the pointy side up.
If the clove is an inch tall, you want an inch of dirt above it. If the clove is 1 1/2 inches tall, you want 1 1/2 inches of dirt above it, and so on.
Plant in an area with good drainage because garlic doesn’t like “wet feet.”
When to plant garlic
Some people say to plant garlic after the last full moon in October, which this year occurs tomorrow, Wednesday, Oct. 24. In general, people plant it in late October through November, and sometimes as late as December, weather permitting.
Last year I ran an article looking at whether you can plant garlic earlier. Robert Pavlis of the Garden Myths website did a test in his garden and concluded that planting garlic in October has no benefits over planting in August.
I decided last year to try planting early, though I didn’t get my garlic planted until September. I didn’t see much of a difference between the garlic I planted in September and the garlic I planted in October. The garlic cloves that I got in the ground in September produced plants that were a little shorter than the ones I planted in October, but that might have been because the September plants were located closer to the house and got less sun.
This year I am planting my garlic in rows stretching away from the house rather than parallel to the house. I’m hoping to see whether the plants closest to house are shorter than those that get more sun, no matter what time the cloves were put into the ground.
I am also staggering my planting times more– and keeping better records. I have marked each row with the date I planted. The ones I planted in August and September have already sent up green shoots. That happened last year, too, and they weren’t damaged over the winter–They showed no ill effects at all.
I also want to pay attention this year to the timing of the garlic scapes. It’s possible that the plants sown later will catch up and produce scapes at the same time as those planted earlier. However, I hope staggering the planting times would stagger the production of garlic scapes so I can harvest them over a longer period of time instead of getting a crop all at once.
I’ll let you know next year how it worked out.
How to harvest garlic and scapes
Hard neck garlic plants develop curlicue stems called scapes. (There are two kinds of garlic: hard neck and soft neck. Soft neck garlic doesn’t develop scapes.)
The scapes are the flower stalks– that white thing toward the end is the flower.
The scapes look cool and you may be tempted to just leave them, but if you do, the flower will develop seeds. This process diverts the plant’s energy from the underground bulb, which is the part you want to harvest later in the summer. If you want a nice large head of garlic, cut off the scapes.
There’s an upside– You can eat the scapes.
Scapes have a garlicy flavor that’s not as strong as the flavor from a clove of garlic. You can eat the scapes raw or use them in a variety of cooked dishes. Pick them when they are tender. (I cut them with scissors or gardening shears.)
I freeze some scapes in plastic bags so I have some to chop into dishes during the winter.
If you let the flower develop seeds, called bulblets or bulbils, you can plant those bulblets, but the bulb of garlic produced will be small. It will take several years for that plant to produce a large bulb of garlic when you start with bulblets.
You get a larger bulb of garlic sooner if you start by planting a clove of garlic.
To harvest the garlic bulb, dig it up. The bulbs will be ready in July or August. Harvest them when the leaves are turning yellow and are partly brown.