Garlic Frequently Asked Questions
Hardneck Garlic vs Softneck Garlic?
Each has its strengths, and each is better suited to some culinary uses than others. For example, only hardneck garlic produces the edible flower stem called a garlic scape—a delicacy that can be pickled or added to a range of foods for a mild peppery flavor. As we only grow Hardneck we will only be discussing this variety.
The "neck" in the names refers to the stalk that grows upward from the garlic bulb. Hardnecks have a stalk that stems from the center of the bulb and turns rigid at maturity. Softnecks stalks are made up of leaves rather than a central stalk. Softneck leaves remain soft and flexible at maturity.
Most Garlic bought in the grocery stores are Softneck and cloves tend to be layered. There are generally 15 to 25 cloves per bulb. Hardneck on the other hand tends to be a much bigger bulb and cloves are always bigger and not layered. Heritage Gourmet Garlic only grows Hardneck as we prefer the larger easy to peel cloves.
While many will say Softnecks store longer, we have found this to be incorrect. If stored properly, Hardnecks can last up to 12 months. Our storing methods works as we do it every year and so do our customers! Simply store in a paper bag in your refrigerator. Only pop one bulb at a time as the protective outer skins on the entire bulb is what makes it last!
What varieties of garlic will grow best on my site?
Most varieties of garlic will grow well on a wide range of sites, but as a general rule, soft necks can do better in more moderate and warm conditions and Hardnecks do better in colder conditions. However, with proper care and growing maintenance, Hardnecks can be grown in a wide variety of climates and zone.
Another consideration is rain and irrigation. Garlic does not like a wet soil. Damp soils is required but not soupy. If you live in a highly wet zone like west coastal areas, we suggest mounding your soil. This will allow drain off in heavy rain areas.
How much garlic will my planting produce?
Each garlic clove will produce a bulb of garlic, so if a variety has 8 cloves per bulb, you will get a yield of 8 times, in good growing conditions. Heritage Gourmet Garlic cloves and bulbs tend to be larger than most. Our hardnecks generally have 4 to 6 cloves per bulb with some being up to 8 to 12 cloves per bulb.
When should I plant my garlic?
Garlic is typically planted from early October to December in the North, and from November to early January in the South. Cold climate growers should plant 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes to ensure good rooting to prevent frost heaving. Garlic does require at least 3 weeks of cold to grow into good sized bulbs. If you live in areas where you do not get cold, we suggest you put your bulbs in the coldest part of your refrigerator for at least 3 weeks prior to planting. While this is not necessary for garlic growth, it is a good factor in growing those large bulbs we all love.
How should I prepare my soil for garlic?
Garlic needs loose, well-drained soil to prevent rot and mold. Adequate sulfur, as shown on a soil test and supplemented with mineral as needed, will give more pungent, better-storing garlic. Rich soil and adequate irrigation will produce the best yields but garlic will grow in lesser conditions as well. The best way to grow garlic is to compost. Garlic loves organic material so keep adding, straw, wood chips, garden scraps to your soil. We are always working on soil one to two years in advance. AND VERY IMPORTANT....ALWAYS rotate your crop. Garlic takes so much out of the soil if you grow in the same spot year after year, you will get smaller and smaller bulbs. Rotate to another area of your garden, and plant nitrogen fixing crops in the old bed. We suggest cover crops, but peas, turnips and radishes are always a good choice.
Garlic does not compete well with weeds, so heavy mulching is an excellent way to keep the weeds at bay however if you want big bulbs, you have to weed. Despite 3 to 6 inches of mulch we still have to weed 2 to 3 times during the garlic growth stage.
How much garlic seed will I need?
Our garlic generally provides 35 to 45 plants per lb. This seems lower than what you will read elsewhere but our bulbs are quite large and each bulb provides 4 to 6 cloves/plants. Spacing is generally every 6 inches. We suggest 4 foot wide rows.
When will my garlic be ready to harvest?
Garlic is typically ready to harvest between late May and late July, depending on variety, location and growing conditions in a particular season.
Watch for yellowing of the lower 1/3 to 1/2 of the leaves. When lower leaves begin to yellow, dig a bulb and check it. We recommend harvesting when no more than 1/2 the leaves are yellow. DO NOT water your garlic if you are planning on harvesting. Let the soil dry out to a slight dampness. Wet soil can pull outer skins off, or cause dirt layers within those protective skin. BE SURE TO TAKE OFF YOUR SCAPES mid May or June when they appear. Leaving the scape on will result in substantially smaller bulbs as the plant will focus on flowering instead of bulging. ALWAYS CUT AND EAT THE SCAPES!!!! they are fabulous!
How should I harvest and dry my garlic?
Many growers will dig with a spade, fork or root lifter, however as we grow so much we find that watering the soil 2 to 3 days prior to harvest makes the soil soft and easy to just pull the garlic out. Gently shake excess dirt clumps off but do not remove dirt with your hands. Dirt that remains will dry and fall off during the drying process. The less damage to your outer skins will result in much longer storage time. Wrap in bundles of 12 to 15 stalks and hang in shaded well ventilated area. We generally hang the garlic for 3 weeks, at which point we cut the stalks from the bulbs about 1/2 to 3/4 inch above the bulb. Also trim off the dried roots, but do not cut into the root ball as this also protects the garlic for long term storage.
How should I store my garlic?
While there are many opinions on storing garlic, we find storing them in a paper bag is your refrigerator is the best way. Our garlic lasts up to a year using this method.