How does garlic grow? pretty effortless, if you ask me. just give it a little sun, a little water and watch it go.
Years ago, my husband and I traveled to Raven, Virginia to visit his grandparents. like most people who lived on top of the mountain, maw-maw and paw-paw ball had a very, very, very big garden. they grew potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, beans, peas, cabbage, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and lots of garlic! We had just moved into a new house (in Ohio) and wanted to build our own backyard garden. maw-maw ball gave me a bag full of garlic “seeds” to start with. when I asked her what to do with them, she said in his soft southern drawl, “well, honey, just plant them in the ground.”
just plant them in the ground.
I took them home and planted them in the ground once…and have enjoyed 13 years of garlic since that initial planting. Like most garden plants, garlic prefers to be grown in full sun, but it does surprisingly well in more shaded gardens. they are a pretty infallible plant.
There are two basic types of garlic: hardneck (also called rigid) and softneck (sometimes called topset). hardneck varieties produce a stiff central stem. the stem curls at the top and grows a pod head called a bulbil or escape. hardneck varieties tend to produce 5 to 7 large cloves. cloves from a hardneck variety tend to have a stronger flavor than softneck varieties. they are hardy and are generally found growing in northern regions.
soft neck varieties are not as hardy. they are best for hot climates. As the name implies, softneck varieties do not have stiff stems and do not develop leaks. soft stems are good for braiding. softneck varieties tend to have a milder flavor. each bulb contains about 12 cloves. soft-neck varieties generally have a longer shelf life than hard-neck varieties.
There are two easy ways to plant garlic.
The most used method is to plant a clove. each individual clove will grow a new bulb of garlic. (Note: The clove is the small section that makes up the bulb. I had a friend who was following a garlic cheese sauce recipe. Instead of adding 2 cloves of garlic, she added 2 bulbs of garlic. It won’t. Mistake again!)
Plant each clove (flat end down and point up) two inches deep. space them about 6 inches apart. you can expect to see growth in 4-6 weeks.
if you are going to plant hardneck garlic, you can plant the scape bulbils. this method takes longer to grow a full bulb. if you pull the garlic out in the first growing season, you’ll see what looks like a single clove attached to the stem rather than a multi-clove bulb. if you wait until the next season, you will find a small bulb. wait for a third season… you will find a full lightbulb. no need to put them on the windowsill like you would tomato or pepper seeds. They are hard as nails. just plant them in the ground and they will grow.
Growing garlic from bulbils takes much longer, but it has its advantages. The main advantage is that a garlic plant contains many more bulbils than cloves. growing from bulbils is also a good way to prevent soil-borne diseases.
the best time to plant garlic is in the fall.
Your tooth will begin to take root, sleep through the winter, and then restart growth in the spring. If you’re growing a hardneck variety, in mid-June you’ll notice the top stem will begin to curl and a scape will form. it is a common practice to cut the capitals so that the plant can concentrate its growth on the bulb. some growers claim it produces a larger bulb. others say it makes no difference. I prefer to leave most of my bulblets lit, let them explode and fall where they please. so I have a constant supply of garlic that grows without any effort on my part. (This is a terrible idea if you have a small growing area. You’ll end up with garlic everywhere!)
If you plan to save your bulbils for replanting, it’s best to leave them on the stem until they’re (almost) ready to fall on their own. you can store them in a brown paper bag.
The bulbils resemble small, round teeth. they smell a lot like clove of garlic and can be sautéed or steamed. they have a much milder flavor than cloves.
Around late June or early July, you’ll notice the bottom half of the leaves starting to dry out and turn brown. this means it’s harvest time! Dig up your garlic bulb and hang it in a shaded area. don’t wait until all the leaves have turned brown. each leaf is relative to the envelope around the bulb. if you have 5 leaves, you should have 5 layers of wrap around the bulb. if you let it dry out too long before digging it up, its shell will split apart underground.
is wild garlic like regular garlic?
Wild garlic is a cool-season perennial. grows in small grass-like clumps. it is edible, but has a very mild flavor. many dishes that call for wild garlic use the leaves in addition to the small bulb. wild garlic can sometimes smell more like an onion. an easy way to tell them apart is to look at the stem. wild onions have flat stems. wild garlic has a hollow stem. garlic and onion belong to the same family as lilies. Just as lily of the valley can take over your garden, so can wild garlic. click here to find out how to get rid of it.