Here at Gardening Know
How we get lots of questions, and many of those include issues
surrounded with growing
garlic. We try very hard to provide answers to the best of our knowledge. The
following information includes the 10 most commonly asked questions about garlic plants
in the garden.
1. How do you know what kind of garlic to grow?
There are basically two different kinds of garlic: softneck
and hardneck, also called stiffneck. The type
of garlic that is most commonly grown is the latter, of which there are two
common varieties: artichoke and silverskin. Hardneck garlic has larger cloves
than softneck with a more robust flavor, but it has an easy-to-peel skin that
shortens its shelf life. Also, unlike softneck, it sends out a woody scape. Color
can also be a clue. Artichoke garlic, for example, may have purple streaks on
the skin. If you have a mix of color and scape production, it is possible you
have both softneck and hardneck garlic varieties.
2. How and when do I plant garlic bulbs?
grows best in cool weather, therefore plant garlic cloves in late September and
October in the eastern states, in October in the Mid-Atlantic, and in the fall
about 6 weeks prior to the first hard freeze in the northern and central U. S.
Individual cloves should be planted an inch deep spaced 2-4 inches (5-10 cm.)
apart in rows that are 12-18 inches (30-46 cm.) apart.
3. Can I buy garlic at the grocery store and plant?
Yes, you can plant garlic cloves purchased from the grocers,
but just be sure they are organic. Other garlic is likely to have been treated
with a chemical anti-sprouting agent and will likely be a dud. Also, be sure to
select the largest, nicest looking cloves to plant.
4. Should I fertilize garlic plants?
Garlic takes from 180-210 days until
harvest. Because of this lengthy growing time, yes, it is advisable to give the
plants a boost by fertilizing them. Start at the onset, planting time, by
incorporating plenty of compost, blood meal, manure, or an all-purpose 10-10-10
fertilizer into the soil. Fertilize
garlic again in the spring (if you planted in the fall) by side dressing or
broadcasting a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen. Fertilize yet again in
mid-May just as the bulbs begin to swell, but this time avoid a fertilizer that
is rich in nitrogen which can stunt the bulb size.
5. When do you harvest the garlic?
Depending upon the variety, garlic takes from 180-210 day
until harvest. The approximate harvest date isn’t the only way to tell if
garlic is ready to pull up though. Another clue is when the leaves begin to
brown. Wait to harvest
the garlic until about one third of the leaves have browned and then
carefully excavate around a bulb to check the size. If it is still small, cover
back up with dirt and wait, but if it is the size you desire, carefully dig it
up and check the other bulbs for readiness.
6. What is the best way to store garlic?
Once you have harvested garlic, it needs to cure, or air
dry. Lay the garlic out on a layer of newspaper, making sure to leave space
between each bulb, in a cool, dark, well-ventilated area for at least a couple
of weeks. When the garlic is sufficiently cured, the skins will be dry and
paper-like and should keep for 5-8 months. Store
the garlic in a mesh bag or other airy container.
7. Can you grow garlic in containers, or indoors?
can be container grown, even indoors, provided you follow a few rules. The
container should be at least 6 inches (15 cm.) deep and wide enough to
accommodate a space of 6 inches (15 cm.) between bulbs. Many types of material
can be used for the container, from terra cotta pots to a plastic bucket – just
be sure they have sufficient drainage holes and remember that some materials
evaporate more rapidly and will thus need watering more frequently. Also, be
sure to use a well-draining soil rich with compost or amended with an all-purpose
slow release fertilizer.
8. My garlic isn’t forming bulbs. How come?
It may be that they have not had enough time to split into
cloves; remember, garlic can take 180-210 days to come to fruition depending on
the variety. It may also be that they have not received enough nutrients.
Garlic is a heavy feeder and should be started in a compost rich soil and
fertilized or side dressed regularly. Lastly, garlic needs a cold spell to form
cloves and it could be that you planted at the wrong time so the plant didn’t
get the chill it needed.
9. Are the tops of garlic going to seed?
By the tops, I assume you mean that the garlic
set a scape. This means that you are growing hardneck garlic and not
softneck, which does not set a scape. Most people snip the scape off in late
June to encourage the bulbs to fatten up (and eat the scapes, as they are
divine!). If yours has bloomed, then yes, what is left is seed. They will look
like small black onion seeds and should
be planted in the same manner.
10. Will having garlic next to the tomatoes affect the taste?
I may be prejudiced, but what goes better together than tomatoes
and garlic? But to answer your question, no, the tomatoes will not take on
the flavor of the garlic. The garlic might have beneficial effects on the
tomato, though, by repelling spider mites and other pests.
We all have questions now and then, whether long-time
gardeners or those just starting out. So if you have a gardening question, get a
gardening answer. We’re always here to help.