Have you got your garlic in the ground yet? If not, now is the perfect time to plant your garlic cloves. Around here, mid-October to the end of November is the key time or at least several week before the first heavy freeze. The goal is to plant early enough to allow roots to develop before the ground freezes, but late enough to avoid sprouts from emerging and being damaged by freezing.
Today has been a beautiful sunny day in Central Texas, following a very early cold snap with lots of rain and wind. Usually, we would have put the garlic in earlier this week, but with the weather not cooperating, we has to wait for a more suitable day. And, today is the day. Over the last several weeks, Shane has prepared the garlic beds in preparation for planting. Below are some good tips when getting your bed ready.
Preparing Garlic Beds
- Make sure your are rotating your garlic and onion plants. You do not want to use the same bed you used last year, for this year’s garlic garden. In fact, some people even suggest a four year rotation.
- Do not plant garlic in poorly draining soil. The cloves can rot and go bad if they are sitting in a pool of water during the winter months.
- So, make sure your soil is well drained. A nice rich fertile loamy soil is ideal. But if you only have sand or clay soil, be sure to add a generous compost or organic material. We use a combination of dried and aged sheep manure and an aged hay compost and work it well into the soil.
- Make sure the top 10-12 inches of soil is nice and loose. Again, you want the soil to drain so the cloves do not rot.
- Garlic prefers full sun; although, ours does get an afternoon shade and always grows just fine. We think soil content is most important, but adequate sun is essential. If you are planting hardneck varieties, in a warm climate area, like central to south Texas, you will benefit from planting in an area that receives shade during the hottest part of the day.
Choosing your Garlic
I love garlic. Shane didn’t know he loved garlic until he married me. Seriously, he was not a fan, but has come to appreciate the depths of flavor it adds to just about any dish. With so many garlic varieties out there and each lending a different flavor, it can be hard to choose. But first, know where to purchase your garlic. As tempting as it is, do not buy garlic from the grocery store for planting, unless it is certified organic. Often times, this garlic is treated with an anti-sprouting agent and therefore will not grow if planted. Your safest bet is to order your garlic online from a reputable seed company.
There are generally two types of garlic, hardneck and softneck. Harnecks typically have a more complex flavor than your softneck varities. They are hardier and are best grown in northern, cool climates. If you want the type of garlic you find in most grocery stores, you will want to grow softneck, which is much more suitable for southern growing zones. They mature more quickly than hardneck varieties and tend to store better and longer.
So, be aware of your climate and choose garlics that thrive in warmer weather if you live in Zones 7 or above. For these zones, start with a thermadrone or Italian late. Creole garlics such as creole red, ajo rojo and pescadero red are also good choices for warmer climates. Sans Creek, Carpathian, German Red, Amish and Legacy, which are all rocamboles varieties, are hard to grow in Zones 6 and higher, but thrive in cooler climates.
We live in a warm southern climate, growing Zone 8; however, we do grow hardneck varieties of garlic. There are several tips and tricks you can do to keep your garlic roots cool.
Your garlic seed will come as a bulb. You will want to separate each garlic bulb into individual cloves. Each clove will grow a new bulb of garlic. Be careful when separating the garlic as you do not want to damage the cloves and you want to keep the papery husk on the cloves.
Plant the garlic clove 4-6 inches deep, 5″ part, in rows 1.5-2′ apart.
Be sure you are planting the pointed end of the clove up and the round blunt end down. Cover with soil and water. Garlic cloves don’t need to be watered too often. You just need to make sure that the soil doesn’t get dry. In the winter, the ground will be cold and dry, so you will need to keep the soil moist, but not saturated or else the cloves will rot.
Mulch your bed, which will not only help with weeds, but will also keep the soil cooler, especially in warm climates. In colder climates, it can prevent the cloves from being heaves out of the ground during a freeze. It also will conserve soil moisture.
In the spring, pull the mulch back when the new shoots emerge, but keep the area weeded.
Did you know you can also plant garlic in a container if you do not have garden space. An 18″ x 12″ container will hold about 6 cloves.
Planting garlic is one of the most rewarding aspects of gardening and one that will teach you great patience, especially since it will take up to 8 months before you can harvest the fruits of your labor.