HOW TO GROW BIG GARLIC
While garlic is fairly easy to grow....Growing Big Garlic is a little harder. So we hope the information below will help you get fabulous garlic.
How To Grow Garlic
While garlic is fairly easy to grow . . . Growing Big Garlic is a little harder.
We here at Heritage Gourmet Garlic hope the information below will help you to grow fabulous garlic, and feel free to call us with questions.
Garlic will tolerate some shade but prefers full sun. While we've seen cloves sprout in gravel pits, garlic responds best in well-drained, rich, loamy soil amended with lots of organic matter. Raised beds can be used, however we recommend for falll planting, you mulch not only the top but the sides of the raised beds as the cold creeps through the sides.
We find mounded rows work best, this allows for drainage in heavy rain areas. Un-mounded rows can be used, but if you have a very heavy rain or rainy season, the soil can be mucky and wet. Garlic does not like heavy wet soil.
Garlic does not tolerate weeds, so you need to heavily mulch in the fall when you plant, and keep up on weeding or you will not get good sized bulbs. Do not plant garlic in same spot every year. Garlic takes so much out of soil that you MUST move it to another field, each year. We use a three area rotational system. After the garlic is planted we will use a cover crop of turnips, peas and or radishes. There are many types of cover crops so research what works best in your area. Cover crops are wonderful for adding organic matter back into the soil, but they also keep the soil web going, BE SURE TO SEE OUR RESOURCE PAGE for links to learn more about the soil web.
These cover crops are then lightly stirred back into the soil for the following years planting. What this does for your soil is amazing. It adds organic material which you must keep adding every year. It breaks up hard clay soils, and adds nitrogen back into your soil without having to buy expensive fertilizers.
Adding to your soil. We add manure and other organic matter every year. We always have a large compost pile going, and we are always working on the alternate field for at least a year. THE MORE ORGANIC MATTER YOU CAN ADD TO YOUR SOIL THE BETTER!
PLANTING AND SPACING:
To grow garlic, you plant the cloves pointy side up. Break your bulb open and separate each clove. Those will produce the plants and then the bulbs.
The largest cloves generally yield the biggest bulbs, but good soil and natural fertilizers will also promote larger growth. We recommend buying large seed stock. A good sized bulb should be at least 2 plus inches, with large cloves. Our hardneck garlic generally has 4 to 8 cloves per bulb. Most of Heritagegourmetgarlic.com seed stock is 2.5 to 3 inch bulbs. Order early so you get the biggest bulbs possible.
Although garlic can be planted in early spring, Fall planting is much better as it allows the plant longer growing times as well as the stratification (allowing the plant to be cold for at least 30 days). Spring planting generally produces medium to small bulbs. Perfectly edible and tasty. However if your goal is a big bulb, especially for resale, plant in the fall. Garlic must be stratified, so planting in the fall will allow this. If you are planting in mild states, like Arizona or Hawaii, you can still plant and grow very nice garlic. Just keep the bulbs in your refrigerator for 30 to 60 days prior to planting,
(Cold stratification is the process required by many perennials, through which the seed coat breaks down before germination. It involves a period of exposure to cold and moisture. Winter sowing does just that. It helps to breakdown the seed coats so that even the most difficult to germinate seeds perform better.)
Plant cloves with the fat end root ball down, pointy side up. Plant each clove 2 inches down and 6 inches apart in rows. We recommend a row of 8 to 10 cloves wide, so 4 to 5 feet. Leave a walk way row if you are planting multiple rows. This allows us to get in on both sides and weed with no fear of smashing the plants. Do not plant garlic too deeply or it will struggle in the spring to reach the sun.
Lightly pack soil, and cover with a good 1 to 2 inches of straw or mulch. Most growers will tell that is sufficient and it is! However…..we here at Heritage Gourmet Garlic have found over the years, 6 to 8 inches of fluffed straw works extremely well as it serves as a fantastic barrier for those pesky weeds. The straw helps keep moisture in the soil, insulates so they can grow in during winter in snowy regions, keeps them warm in colder climates and helps with Spring weeds. Garlic does not like weeds so keeping your garlic patch weed free is a must. Our crew here at Heritage Gourmet Garlic usually weeds at least two sometime three times per season.
ALSO VERY IMPORTANT.....YOU must move change garlic fields/plots each year. Planting garlic in the same spot will result in smaller bulbs and proceed to get smaller and smaller each year you plant in that same spot. Garlic takes so much out of the soil, you'll want to alternate your fields. We are always working on the next year’s field. We are tiling and adding organic matter to the next years field a year before it’s ever planted. We add manure and wood chips to the soil then we also plant turnips in our alternate field. Turnips are ideal as they put 40% nitrogen back into the soil, but peas or clover or a variety of cover crops will work. The main point here is that YOU SHOULD NEVER plant your garlic in the same field two years in a row. Or even in a small garden plot. The main point here is that YOU SHOULD NEVER plant your garlic in the same field two years in a row. While your current years garlic is growing work on the soil for where your fall garlic will be planted.
Garlic needs about an inch of water each week during spring growth. If you have to augment rainfall with the garden hose, then water only to the point where the soil is moist. Garlic does not like soppy wet soil. We usually don't even water our garlic fields until mid to late May depending on the weather. If you find your soil damp but not soppy, that’s perfect, Be sure to check the soil daily with your finger. Remember, your clove roots are at least 2 inches down so be sure to check where the roots are. You may find the top of your soils is somewhat dry yet very wet down under the mulch mat, When picking a spot to plant in your garden, pick a spot that will not get as much water as other water hog type plants.
A good natural fertilizer should be applied early in your plants growth, but not close to harvest time. We generally stop fertilizing after scape removal. It’s best to fertilize lightly with a liquid fertilizer just as the plants are emerging in the spring. Then fertilize again 10 days or so later with more nitrogen, phosphorus. We use only Bat Guano, alfalfa, blood meal and bone meal. (We get bone and blood meal from our compost pile as we compost all bone etc from animals grown here on the farm.)
We recommend three applications of fertilizer.
SCAPE REMOVAL: (Hardneck only)
By mid-summer, depending on your climate, your garlic will begin sprouting flowery tops that curl as they mature and ultimately straighten out into long spiky tendrils. These savory stalks, known as scapes, should be removed to encourage larger, more efficient bulb growth.
Scape removal is a must or you will not get a good bulb. The garlic plant wants to promote the flower so all the energy goes to that flower. Removing the scape tell the plant to promote its bulb growth. Cut the scapes as close to where they come out of the plant as possible. Scapes only grow on Hardneck varieties, so they will not be found on the softnecks. Fresh Scapes are wonderful for frying, salads, dressings and a multitude of recipes. They are a milder version of the spicy natural garlic flavor.
Garlic generally takes about 90 days from their first appearance out of the ground. However, that is after its been in ground all winter. We plant in October in Montana, and then the garlic starts sprouting about mid April, early May. Harvest is usually end of July, but depending on the weather, we have harvested as late as mid August. As the plant reaches maturity and bulb fruition, the bottom leaves begin to yellow. When half to three-quarters of the leaves turn yellow-brown, typically in late July or early August (depending on the variety, your location and the weather), it's harvest time. Be Ready, garlic waits for no one. If it’s ready it’s ready! If you wait too long to pull your bulbs, they will split and not be able to be sold. Split bulbs do not store well either! IF you are growing for resale, leaving the garlic in the ground even one day past when it’s ready can result in splitting and cracking of the your outer skins. This produces unsightly garlic for selling. So as your garlic approaches the 3/4 yellow leaf stage, check a bulb daily of each variety by harvesting one plant. Carefully dig up each bulb; do not pull, or you may break the stalk from the bulb, which can cause it to rot. Once it's harvested, get it out of the sun as soon as possible. Tie the garlic together in bundles of 6 to 10 bulbs (label them if you've grown more than one variety) and hang them to cure for about two to three weeks in a shaded, dry, and preferably drafty area.
When your garlic is thoroughly dry, trim the roots, taking care not to knock off the outer skin. Cut off the stalks about 1 inch above the bulb if you plan to keep the garlic in bags. We find, milk crates or onion bags work well. DO NOT STORE in metal or plastic containers, this will cause bruising and rotting of your garlic. If you are going to store your garlic for many months, its best to keep them cool so a root cellar is ideal, but a brown bag in your refrigerator also works well. The most important thing about long term storage of garlic is to make sure it’s fully cured! Be sure your storage area is cool, dry, well ventilated. Ideal storage temperature is around 45 to 50 degrees.
HAVE FUN AND ENJOY YOUR CROP!!!!
If you have any question on Planting, Growing or Storing your Garlic, feel free to Contact Us.
We are always happy to help. We thank you for your purchase, and hope you enjoy our unique Montana grown garlic.
Thank you and we hope this was Informative and helpful.