If you’ve never planted garlic in your garden, you’re missing out! Garlic (Allium sativum) has been grown for centuries and is one of the easiest crops to grow. It’s not finicky, there are few pests and diseases, and rabbits and deer tend to ignore it. Just plant your garlic in the fall, then wait until summer begins to harvest it.
Garlic is divided into two main types: softneck and hardneck, which has a stiff stem, or scape, that grows out of the center of the bulb. The scape, which is also edible, is harvested in the spring before the bulb is ready and has a mild garlic flavor. Overall, the softneck is the most successful type in the South.
When should I plant garlic?
Garlic requires 6-8 weeks of cool weather (less than 40 degrees F) to grow properly. This means you should put it in the ground between early October and early December, depending on where you live. In general, it is better to plant later than too early.
How to Plant Garlic a clove
Garlic doesn’t like to stay soggy. It does well in well-drained sandy or loamy soils, but it can also grow in clay if you amend it with organic matter like compost. You can also grow garlic in containers at least a foot deep, but the bulbs will be small.
Choose a spot in the garden with full sun, i.e. at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. Make sure it’s a place that won’t be disturbed as garlic takes up to 8 months to mature. Dig a hole about 4 to 6 inches deep (shallower for warmer southern regions, deeper for cooler regions). Gently crack open the bulb and separate it into segments just before planting, keeping the paper coverings intact on each clove.
Place each clove in the hole with the pointed side up, then cover with soil, spacing about 6 to 8 inches apart. Water well after planting and mulch to protect bulbs from cold, retain moisture and control weeds. Don’t worry if your garlic sprouts after planting; it will not affect performance. In spring, feed with a balanced fertilizer, and water occasionally if it’s extra-dry.
Can I plant garlic from the grocery store?
This is not recommended as most supermarket garlic has been treated to prevent sprouting. It is also often not a variety suitable for southern regions. Don’t waste your time and energy; Instead, buy “seed stock” from reputable growers, such as Johnny’s Selected Seeds, Filaree Farm, or Keene Garlic.
What are the best types of garlic to plant in the south?
Overall, soft-necked garlic like Inchelium Red, Italian Early or Late, and California Early are the most adaptable to Southern gardens. However, if you are in USDA hardiness zones 7 or colder (find your zone here), you can also try hardneck types such as Chesnok Red, German White, and Music.
How to Harvest and Store Garlic
Garlic is ready between late May and early July, depending on where you live and when you planted. If you planted a hard-necked type, cut the scape when it begins to curl so that the plant devotes its energy to developing a larger bulb. Then, watch your plants for clues: when about half the foliage is dead and drooping, you can harvest the bulbs.
Lift the bulbs with a pitchfork or spade, shake off the dirt, and let the bulbs “dry” out of direct sunlight for several weeks to increase shelf life. Once dry, cut the leaves at the neck. Or while still soft, weave the 8-10 head stems together into a braid.
Store garlic in a dark, cool place, like a pantry or closet, and it will last about 6 months. Don’t forget to save some of the best bulbs to plant next year!