Our family loves garlic--and a number of years back, we discovered "gourmet garlic"--which is another name for hardneck garlic. It’s different than the garlic that you buy at the grocery store, which usually is grown in warmer climates and is sometimes called softneck garlic.
There are many different types of hardneck garlic, and these are the types of garlic grown in countries all over the world. To us, they are the best when it comes to flavor! Our personal favorite is Romanian garlic, because it has fantastic flavor. It has only a very few cloves but they are very large (less peeling!). Interestingly Romanian garlic has the highest amounts of allicin (the part of garlic that makes it so healthful) and stays fresh for quite a few months. However, we have also grown German Red, Russian Mettichi, and several other types.
October is a great time to plant hard-neck garlic, especially if you live in a northern region of the US. Our favorite variety is Romanian garlic, for several reasons. It is known to be the variety that is highest in allicin, which means it has lots of what makes garlic so good for our health! It also is a variety that has fewer but much larger cloves. Typically our Romanian garlic has 3 or 4 huge cloves in each bulb.
We harvested last year's crop in late July and now I'll take from that supply to plant this next year's crop. A couple of days ago I prepared one 4' wide garden bed, by scattering soil amendments on the bed. The amendments you'll want to use will depend upon your soil test results (for more info regarding that, check out our Fall Gardening DVD from our list of Products). One of the amendments that I used was soft rock phosphate, which helps the development of healthy roots.
Then, using an English fork, I turned and loosened the soil. You can use whatever you have on hand to turn the soil. We really like our English fork. Also, I removed the weeds while doing this.
I carefully separated the garlic bulbs into individual cloves, trying not to damage them, and placed them in a large container.
And then I planted 2 long rows in my garden bed with the garlic cloves pointing up, about 4" deep and about 8" apart.
Finally, we'll cover the entire bed with a layer of some type of mulch, and put the garlic to bed for the winter! The snow will soon cover the garden, but early next spring we should see beautiful green shoots poking their heads up through the damp soil, giving us encouragement as we begin to plant our spring garden!
Then just let your garlic bed rest through the winter--let the snow pile deep on top!
In the Spring...
...the snow melts and soon you’ll begin to see rows of green shoots coming out of the mulch. The mulch will pack down in the winter, but if it’s more than about 2” deep in the spring I remove some of the mulch at this time. The snow melting and the spring rains water the garlic and you really don’t need to water the garlic until maybe late June or early July if at all. We harvest our garlic once about a third to one half of the green spiky leaves turn brown--usually in August. Let the bulbs “cure” for several weeks on a rack in a cool dry place out of the sun. Then trim off the roots and cut the stem--and that’s all there is to it!!!
Gourmet garlic is a terrific plant to grow if you live in a northern climate--whether you grow it for yourself or for a cash crop. It really needs the cold weather.
Be sure to save plenty of bulbs to replant in September or October--I actually replant my nicest garlic that has the largest cloves so that each year’s crop gets better and better. Right now our garlic is about 3’ tall with very thick, healthy-looking stems.
Have you planted Garlic before? Which variety did you use and how did you plant it?