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You can learn how to grow garlic!
It isn’t hard to learn how to grow garlic. And, this is one of the most rewarding crops gardeners can grow. But, getting it to produce big bulbs that store well takes timing and patience.
We’ve been growing our own garlic for decades.
Because we’ve been growing our own garlic successfully for years, we have lots of practice. And that means we’ve got great info to help you choose, plant, harvest, cure and preserve a great crop.
First, which type of garlic do you want to grow?
Garlic comes in two basic varieties. These are hard neck and soft neck. Plus, there’s the elephant kind. But, that’s not even really garlic, so we won’t get into it here.
You might choose soft necks because they are easier to braid. And, they often store longer than hard necks will.
Or, you might want to learn how to grow the hard neck form. That’s because this garlic is extra tasty. And, it may be easier to peel. Plus, hard neck garlic produces two crops. They grow garlic scapes. And, they also produce bulbs.
Second, Timing your garlic crop is really important.
In the Northern Hemisphere, garlic is planted in fall, not spring. So, being prepared for that is really important. And that includes ordering your garlic “seed” in summer. In fact, ordering it as early as possible in summer should mean you’ll be able to get exactly the kind of garlic you want. If you wait too long, favorites will likely sell out.
Too, garlic remains in the ground around 9 months before the bulbs are harvested. That means you need to have a garden bed ready for it in autumn. And, that spot won’t be available again for other crops until the following summer sometime. But homegrown garlic is worth it!
Third, you can grow garlic in pots.
We’ve successfully grown abundant garlic crops in pots. But, you need really big containers for this to work. In fact, growing in pots means you can move your garlic around to chase the sun. And, you can easily tuck it away from rotting rains too. But, as with anything you grow in a pot, your space will be limited. So, your garlic harvest may also be smaller as well.
So, we do prefer to grow garlic directly in the planet. That way, it can reach deep to draw the nutrients and water it needs to really plump up.
Fourth, harvesting garlic at the perfect moment is critical!
First, you’ll want to know when to harvest garlic scapes. In late spring, garlic scapes show themselves. That’s because they’re flower shoots that rise up from the center of hard neck garlic. So, when you see them rise up and begin to curl, snip them out. They’re delicious!
But, knowing when to harvest garlic bulbs is a little trickier. The first thing to look for is browning bottom leaves. But, just because the plant is browning doesn’t always mean it’s ready to dig. That’s because sometimes leaves will brown prematurely if they are stressed or under watered. So, you may choose to pull one to test the crop status.
And, don’t wait too long. If you do, the heads will move into a growth phase that won’t be good for curing or storing.
Finally, curing your garlic to store…
If your garlic grew into perfect bulbs that didn’t split open, curing comes next. First, dust off (or rinse if you must) as much dirt as you can from the bulbs. But try not to get them really wet. Then hang them bulb side down to dry in a warm, dark spot. (If you want garlic braids, braid them and then hang them to dry.)
Don’t dry them in the sun!
You can use the garlic fresh, before it’s dried. But, properly dried garlic will keep for months.
Once your garlic has dried, you can store it as is, hanging. Or cut off the tops and store just the bulbs. Either way, keep it in a dark, dry spot for best storage.
Need more detailed garlic growing instructions?
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Great article! I’m growing garlic around here too. It’s the one plant with which I’ve had great success. Never thought of using the scapes, however. Great idea!
You talk about braiding the hardneck garlic (that is all I grow, too), but don’t say if you have any tips to make it easier. I tried it last summer with my harvest…and it worked okay, but was very difficult to do and I was wondering if there was anything that would make it easier.
Sheryl, what was difficult about it? That the middle scape remnant is still and difficult to bend? I don’t have an easy way around it. I agree, a couple more arms on a person would make it easier, but I doubt any of us will be sprouting those soon. Patience — thank of it as french braiding your hair, except you don’t have to do it backwards and blind. Maybe that thought will make the garlic braiding a little simplier. Good luck!
Thanks. Yes, it was just the stiffness (and awkwardness) of trying to get the heads to stay where I put them while wrestling with the necks: almost every time I tried to fold one over, the head attached to it moved. You are right – just patience. I wanted to make sure I wasn’t missing a trick somewhere.
It is really frustrating. Softnecks are soooo much easier to braid. But, I think the hardnecks are so much tastier, easier to peel & you get the tasty scapes too. And, to be honest, I’ve had hardnecks store all the way through the winter into spring when the next season’s scapes appear, so its a hard sell for me to grow a lot of softnecks. (And, last year I didn’t braid any of them. I just stored them in our cool, dry basement with plenty of airflow, and they did great. They weren’t as pretty as when I’d braided them, but they were just fine.
This year, I plan to braid again. As long as I don’t manage to get too frustrated when they start flipping around!
Thanks for writing in. Good luck!