Garlic is a perennial plant grown for its bulbs. Its strong flavor makes it a cooking-favorite all over the world. A cousin of onions and shallots, garlic is native to Central Asia.
Known for its medicinal properties, garlic is a popular plant among gardeners. However, it may be a bit tricky to grow, especially if you have not done it before. Many gardeners get confused about when to harvest and grow garlic, as it takes some patience to do.
If grown and tended to well enough, garlic takes about eight months to finally be ready to harvest. Therefore, it is vital to be mindful of the entire growth and harvesting cycle or you may lose out on months of progress. When grown correctly, garlic can be an incredible addition to your existing garden plants.
One of the easiest vegetables to store and enjoy in winter, garlic can also be grown year-round in milder climates.
In this article, we illustrate how you can easily grow the plant and when to harvest garlic too.
Types Of Garlic
As such, there are three common varieties of garlic:
- Hard-neck garlic: This variety of garlic is hardy, especially in cold weather. However, it does not store that well. It has a mild flavor and grows only one ring of cloves around its stem.
Hard-neck garlic has green stems also known as scapes. Scapes are used as food after being harvested, and removing them does not require displacing the underground garlic bulbs.
Some varieties of hard-neck garlic are German Red and Korean Red.
- Soft-neck/Silverskin/Artichoke garlic: This variety grows larger bulbs than hard-neck garlic. Its name comes from the stem that is much softer than hard neck-garlic stems.
Soft-neck garlic varieties have a much stronger flavor with an intense kick. This variety includes the Silverskin and California White types.
- Elephant garlic: Closely related to leeks and with only four cloves per bulb, elephant garlic is not exactly a ‘true’ garlic variety. Although it has large bulbs and is also known as great-headed garlic.
Where to Plant Garlic?
Ideally, garlic should be planted in full sunlight. Loose, humus-rich soil works well as long as it is drained properly and has a pH between 6.0 to 7.0. If you live in a location where the ground tends to freeze over in winter, make sure to plant the garlic in raised soil beds.
When to Grow Garlic?
Garlic plants need lower temperatures (32 degrees Fahrenheit to 50 degrees Fahrenheit) during the first two months. These months are essential for root growth and are also the period when bulbs form.
- The growth and maturity of garlic are not affected by hotter weather as much after the first couple of months.
- In spring, garlic should be planted while the soil is still cool. Ideally, four to six weeks before the final spring frost. You can also start planting garlic when the soil is not frozen anymore and is ready to work with. If you plant it in spring, the garlic can be harvested four to five months post the planting period.
- Late summer and autumn planting of garlic can be done when the soil has started to cool again. Be sure to plant it around six weeks before the soil freezing phase begins. This will lead to harvesting in the following summer months.
Planting and Spacing of Garlic Plants
Here is a step-by-step process detailing the cycle of planting garlic:
- Garlic can be planted by using cloves or bulblets. Set down the cloves with the plump, root side facing the soil, and the pointed top portion facing upwards.
- Each clove or bulblet needs to be placed at a distance of six to eight inches apart. The depth has to be at least a couple of inches. Every row of garlic needs to have a gap upwards of twelve inches between them.
- For fertilizer, you can use one tablespoon of the commercially available 5-10-10 fertilizer. Some alternatives are bone meal or fish meal. Add these to the bottom while planting the garlic and cover with soil.
- Plant twelve to sixteen garlic pods at first. In case you are using previously harvested garlic from the season before, make sure to plant the thicker outer cloves.
Since garlic is a relatively easy plant to take care of, you only need to water it enough to keep the soil around it moist. In case the soil freezes up in the winter season, there is nothing to worry about. As soon as the ground thaws inspiring, the roots will resume growth. This is your cue to continue watering the soil. However, make sure to not make the soil too wet.
Bonus read: If you plan to grow snow peas, these 14 tips shall be a blessing in disguise.
When the bulbs begin to reach maturity, it is important to reduce the watering. The soil needs to be dry at least three weeks or a month prior to harvesting it. It is essential to know when to harvest garlic as this factor affects the taste of the garlic greatly.
To feed your garlic plants, remember to add well-aged compost biannually. Compost can also be substituted with commercially available planting mixes that are organic.
Make sure to spray growing leaves with kelp extract or fish emulsion to enhance their growth.
If you decide to use a fertilizer, keep in mind that nitrogen-rich fertilizers deplete the flavor profile of garlic. Thus, it is advised to use 5-10-10 fertilizers for the best results.
Companion planting is the process of placing varieties of different plants or crops next to each other in the soil. Planting different plants next to each other benefits them in several ways, like pest control, pollination, employing gardening space efficiently, and providing shade from spring frost.
For knowledge purposes – The most popular companion planting combination is corn, squash, and pole beans.
Here are seven plants you can grow alongside garlic:
- Cabbage: Cabbage and garlic make for wonderful companion plants as garlic repels a number of cabbage pests, like loopers, moths, and worms.
- Chamomile: Planting garlic alongside this herb is said to improve the flavor of garlic.
- Fruit Trees: If you plant garlic at the base of your fruit trees, you can protect them from diseases like leaf curl and also ward off aphids and mites.
- Peppers: Garlic helps peppers thrive by keeping away harmful fungus, hence preventing mold and wilt.
- Roses: You can plant garlic cloves in a ring around your rose plant to get rid of rose pests like spider mites, ants, and snails.
- Rue: Rue is a powerful herb and pest repellent. It will keep your garlic plants safe from maggots and flies.
- Tomatoes: Planting tomatoes and garlic together will not only help ward off nasty pests like spider mites, but both plants will be ready to harvest at around the same time.
By the way, here are some amazing companion plants for growing with tomatoes.
Garlic Pests and Diseases
There are several pests and diseases that can attack and ruin your precious garlic plants. These include:
- Onion thrips: These attack garlic, which is a cousin of the onion plant. To keep them away, simply spray them with a heavy stream of water.
- Maggots or wireworms: If this is a persisting problem, always put parasitic nematodes into the soil when you are planting your garlic.
- Bulb mites: A common pest for plants belonging to the genus Allium, bulb mite infestations can be avoided by soaking garlic cloves in hot water prior to planting them.
- Leafminers: This pest is easy to spot due to the white streak it causes on leaves. If you see this streak, immediately remove the leaves having it. Get rid of any surrounding weeds to reduce the spread. Keep in mind, installing floating row covers to prevent any infestations will help.
- Mildew might start growing in humid, moist environments. Make sure that the plants are dry and there is a moderate moisture content in the atmosphere.
Caring for Garlic Plants
Caring for your garlic plants is vital if you do not want your hard work to go to waste. Proper care will ensure your plants are pest and disease-free.
Most pests and infections can be avoided by regularly weeding plant beds and mulching the area around plants with well-aged compost to feed the plants.
If you see hard-neck garlic varieties blossoming, pinch the blossoms away to redirect growth to bulb formation. Additionally, before the first freeze of winter hits, make sure to mulch the plant beds with hay, or straw to protect your garlic plants in the winter.
When to Harvest Garlic?
How should you know when to harvest garlic? The easiest way to check is by lifting a couple and breaking them apart. If you find that the bulbs are not yet segmented into cloves and cannot be separated, check back in a couple of weeks.
Ripe garlic bulbs separate easily from their stems. The tops of bulbs start to dry out and turn brown around two to three weeks after lodging. This is a sign that they will be ready for harvesting soon. At the time of harvest, three-fourths of the bulb tops should be brown. Also, the skins of the garlic must be papery and thick.
If left in the soil too long, the skins begin to deteriorate and come loose. This will cause the bulbs to be inferior and not last as long. To remedy this, simply harvest a little sooner than waiting too long.
Be sure to extract the garlic bulbs with care so as to avoid bruising or cleaving the skins. A garden fork will work well to accomplish this task.
All bulbs should be allowed to desiccate in an airy environment for up to a month until the skin becomes dry and papery. If you intend to replant garlic in the next season, make sure to reserve the healthiest, thickest bulbs.
Tips and Tricks When Growing and Harvesting Garlic
Each of these added suggestions will prove instrumental in attaining a worthy harvest:
- Ensure that the cloves or bulbs you are planting are healthy, plump, and disease-free.
- Plant only the outer cloves that are the largest.
- Do not remove the skins before planting and be careful to not bruise the cloves.
- Plant only those cloves which are from gardening stores or from previously grown garlic. Although keep in mind, store-bought garlic cloves may have growth inhibitors in them.
- Try to plant local cultivars of garlic as these are more likely to thrive in your garden.
- Add blood meal in traces to garlic plants to enhance their growth.
- Regularly check the plants to ensure they are firm and showing no signs of disease or pestilence.
- Plant alongside strawberries to help them thrive – a great companion planting tip!
- If you store the hard-neck garlic at freezing temperatures, they may last anywhere from six to seven months without rotting or deteriorating in quality.
- Lodging or bending yellowing stems to the ground helps augment bulb growth and formation.
- Any bulbs that are stored for future planting should be placed in high moisture atmospheres to ensure they do not dry out.
Commonly Asked Questions
What if I pull my garlic too early?
If you pull out garlic bulbs from the soil when they aren’t segmented properly, they might be prone to rot and damage. They will also grow to be smaller and the skins will disintegrate sooner.
What if I pull my garlic too late?
Overripe garlic pods start to divide and give rise to new shoots from each clove. If pulled out of the soil late, garlic needs to be used quickly as it will go bad sooner. This is because garlic that is harvested late has lesser protective layers and does not store well.
Should I let my garlic flower?
Hard-neck varieties of garlic may blossom and produce scapes or stalks. To produce healthier bulbs, it is recommended to not let the garlic plants flower.
When the scapes begin to show curling, they can be consumed as a vegetable.
When to harvest garlic?
Baby garlic or garlic that was planted in autumn is picked early for its leaves. These leaves resemble scallions in flavor. Such green garlic can be harvested at any point in early spring while the upper parts of the leaves are still green and fresh.
A handy trick is to check the portions of leaves around the bulb. If two-thirds of those areas are dry and brown, the garlic is in the perfect state to be harvested. Its leaves will be extended and reaching down to the soil too.
Remember to let harvested bulbs dry in the air for at least 3 weeks before consumption.
A great addition to any garden, garlic plants are well worth the efforts it takes to grow and harvest them. With only a few simple tips and tricks in mind, you can have a healthy supply of wonderful, home-grown garlic.
The many uses and benefits of garlic plants ensure that any produce won’t be going to waste. As an added bonus, you will be able to enjoy fresh produce that you worked hard to grow.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you understand how and when to harvest garlic. If your DIY gardening spirit is yet high, glance through our list of 16 fascinating air plants to grow (they have pictures too).