Fall is here, and it’s time to get the garlic in the ground! I prefer to plant it in the fall in Wisconsin, so I have it come July when the tomatoes are ripening, and I am canning marinara sauce. Depending on your climate, now may be a good time to “remember” to get the garlic in the ground!

Growing garlic at home opens up so many new opportunities to enhance the flavors in your meals that you simply just can’t find in the grocery. Garlic bulbs can be saved year to year out of your garden and can be passed down from generation to generation.

TYPES OF GARLIC

There are two types of garlic hardneck, and softneck.

Typically hardneck varieties are more cold-hardy and suited for northern climates. Hardneck is more likely to have the purple veining and has more intense flavors. Hardneck garlic produces a beautiful scape and a flower grows out of this center of the garlic plant produce a flower called the scape. Many find it to be a delicacy and look forward to harvesting those in the late spring-early summer. Removing the garlic scape is crucial, so the plant focuses on producing the bulb and not the flower. Garlic scapes are delicious chopped up to make pesto grilled, adding them to stir-fries soups or even chop a little bit for your burger.

Softneck garlic is typically grown in more southern climates. It tends to store a little bit longer than the hardneck. For up to about six months longer, you usually see softneck garlic in the grocery store, which has an all-white bulb.

I’ve grown only hardneck garlic in the area. Still, one of the beautiful things about garlic is that garlic is highly adaptable if you’re interested in experimenting. If you’re willing to give it a few years, a variety that typically would not grow well in your climate will eventually adapt to your weather and soil conditions.

SOURCING YOUR GARLIC

If you’re new to garlic planting in your garden, I recommend ordering your garlic seed from a trusted source or a reputable local farm. Most garlic that you find in the grocery store is from China and may not be suited to grow in your region. Additionally, conventionally grown garlic is treated with sprout inhibitors and may fail in your garden and is more likely to rot in the soil. 

 Hit up your local farmer or farmers market and purchase your bulbs from a quality source.

Buying locally grown garlic will ensure you get a variety that thrives in your area.

PLANTING

Garlic is one of the most accessible trouble-free crops you can grow. We grow in zone 5. However, this info should be applicable for zones 5-8. Mid-October through mid-November is an ideal planting time frame. (4-6 weeks before a hard frost).

Planting too early can risk damaging the plant.  The goal is to achieve root growth with very little to no top growth. Timing matters!

  1. Prep your area with some fresh compost. Garlic prefers rich, loose soil and drainage. They are a heavy feeder so give that garlic quality organic matter.
  • Separate the cloves from the bulb and choose those that have no damage and are the biggest as they will produce the most prominent head. . Do not peel the cloves.
  • Make a slight trench with a dibber or shovel tip to make a row about 2″ deep. Each row should be 12 inches apart.
  • Place cloves 4 inches apart in the rows. The point side should be facing up towards you.
  • Push the cloves into the soil approximately 2 to 4 inches deep.
  • Cover with soil/compost.
  • Water your rows.
  • Optional – mulch the rows or add some compost/straw/shredded leaves on top.

Remember if you have the space rotate your garlic annually. Like most crops, rotation helps the soil and aids in preventative measures for pests and diseases. if you are unable to rotate, adding fresh high-quality compost is a must!

TIPS

Nutrient Support

There is no need to add fertilizer at the time of planting.  It can stimulate faster growth with can result in damaging the plant in a hard freeze.  If you have rich soil, there is no need to add an amendment to the soil.  If you feel your soil lacks, you can add a fish or seaweed spray in the springtime upon seeing the garlic sprouting.  I did not add any additional nutrient support during the springtime this past year.  I started with high-quality compost when planting the cloves.  My recommended compost, if you are in the Wisconsin area, is the Purple Cow activated compost.

Watering

Watering garlic is like any other plant.  It needs about 1″ of water a week, so you can water if there has been little rain.  There is no need to water in the winter when temperatures are at freezing

Harvesting

When the lower two or three leaves turn yellow or brown, bulbs are ready to be harvested. The tip on the other leaves will be turning brown. Gently cultivate around the plant to loosen the soil before removing the garlic.

Do not wash the garlic bulbs as you want to cure them. Hang garlic in a place with no direct sunlight for 3-4 weeks.

Before trimming off the stem – make sure it is 90% dry.

Remember to save the more giant bulbs for fall planting and store them in a dry ventilated place, and enjoy

Health Benefits + Kitchen Tips

Garlic is a staple in our diets. Here are a few key reasons to add it more regularly into your diet and garden.

  • Boosts the immune system.
  • Reduces high blood pressure.
  • Contains antibiotic & anti-fungal properties.
  • Contains antioxidants.
  • Highly nutritious: Manganese, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C, Selenium.

Let’s head to the Kitchen. I wasn’t thoroughly educated on the “why” of the 10-minute smash rule. Are you?

Pick the red-skinned variety if you have an option.

Smash the garlic and let it sit for 10 minutes before sauteing it. Sitting allows the critical ingredient to activate. Allicin is a compound produced when garlic is crushed or chopped. Not allowing the allicin to activate just means you will simply be enjoying the garlic flavor.