How To Grow Organic Garlic?
WHEN TO PLANT
- When you consider growing garlic, the first thing you’ll need to know is that there are two types of garlic; “hard neck” and “soft neck
- The upside to growing hard neck garlic is that it produces plumper cloves and there are more varieties than soft neck garlic
- The downside is that growing hard neck garlic is that it does not store as well as soft neck garlic and wants to sprout more quickly
- Growing soft neck garlic is the ideal choice for long-term storage
- Soft neck varieties are a little easier to grow but have a cluster of tiny cloves in the center that are tedious to work with
- We grow both types to get the best of both worlds…flavor and storage quality
- One other important consideration when planting garlic is your climate; hard neck garlic types root quicker and are therefore easier to grow in northern climates
- Soft neck types do better in areas with mild winters. Yet, with proper care, both types can grow successfully in either climate
WHERE TO PLANT
- Garlic will tolerate partial shade but will perform best in full sun
PREPARING THE SOIL
- When preparing your soil to grow garlic, you’ll want your soil’s pH balance to be in the range of 6.0 – 7.0
- Garlic grows well in deep, well-drained soil amended with composted manure and plenty of organic matter mixed in before planting
GETTING STARTED INDOORS (and transplanting)
- Not recommended
PLANTING & GROWING (Planting seeds directly into your garden)
- From your bulbs, select the large outer cloves for planting. Use the smaller cloves for immediate eating
- Separate the cloves from the bulb (this is called ‘cracking’) as close to planting time as possible; you don’t want the root nodules to dry out
- With the root end facing down and points (or tops) pointing up, plant to the depth of 1 to 2” below the surface for soft neck garlic and a minimum of 2” for hard neck garlic
- Space individual cloves in rows 4″ to 6”apart with one foot between rows. Cover loosely to the recommended soil level
- Garlic does not like competition with other plants so weeding is imperative for proper bulb development
- When flower buds appear, snip them off with scissors; the plant will put more energy into bulb growth
- Garlic does not perform well with repeated freezing and thawing, nor does it like extreme temperatures
- In colder regions, apply a thick layer of mulch during the winter and reduce the amount in the spring and summer; mulch will protect the bulbs, prevent severe fluctuations in temperature, and help keep moisture levels even in the soil
- Chopped leaves or alfalfa hay are an excellent mulch for garlic. Using wheat straw is not recommended; it is a host to the wheat curl mite which invades garlic
- In wet climates, using any form of mulch is not advised; it may cause the ground to hold excess water
- Jenny’s Tip: We discovered a liquid organic leaf spray fertilizer this year that naturally stimulates plants to convert more nutrients, mostly from the sun and air, into plant sugar. Where we’ve used Organic Garden Miracle™, we’ve noticed better flavor, more robust plants, and up to double the production
- Garlic prefers moist, even, well drained soil throughout the growing season with no additional watering the last few weeks before harvesting
- Over-watered garlic is prone to mold and will result in bulbs that have don’t store well
COMPANION PLANTING / ROTATION
- Garlic contains an antibiotic and anti-fungal compound called allicin. When an insect bites into the clove allicin is released which acts as a natural pesticide
- Garlic is beneficial planted next to lettuce and cabbage, deterring aphids and other common pests
- Bad companions include beans, peas, and potatoes; garlic tends to stunt their growth
- Garlic should not follow any onion family crop since they are closely related and prone to the same problems
WHEN TO HARVEST
- Timing is critical when harvesting garlic
- Watch for when the bottom two or three leaves of hard neck varieties turn brown and when the tops of soft neck varieties fall over naturally; this is a good first indicator that your garlic is ready for harvest
- Before pulling up, check to be sure the bulbs are mature. Carefully brush aside the dirt around the sides of the bulb to feel if the bulbs are large and hard
- Lift bulbs out of the ground before the outer wrappers begin to tear and the skins on the cloves deteriorate; this results in poor storage quality. Harvesting too soon will sacrifice the size of your bulbs
- It is best to use a shovel to loosen the soil around the garlic bulb; a garden fork is more likely to pierce the bulbs. Once the bulb is loosened, lift the plant out by hand. Gently tap off excess dirt
- The garlic bulb can become sunburned and lose flavor if exposed to direct sunlight. It is a good idea to cover your bulbs or place them out of the sunlight while you are harvesting
- The storing process begins with curing your garlic. If cured and stored properly, a garlic bulb will keep 6-8 months
- Hang your bulbs out of direct light in bunches of 4 to 6. Be sure to allow air circulation to all sides of the bulbs. If an area with good ventilation is not available, use fans
- Optimum drying time is two weeks at 80°F. You will know your garlic is cured when the skin is dry and the necks are tight
- Before storing, clean garlic by trimming off the leaves (unless braiding) and roots. Remove just the outer wrappers that are soiled. The outer wrapper is what protects the garlic and helps to maintain freshness so be careful not to expose the cloves
- Leave 1” of the center stalk on hard neck varieties to make separating the cloves easier. Select only unbruised, cloves and store in a paper or mesh bag. Your garlic will keep in a cool, dark place between 60-65°Ffor several months
COMMON PESTS AND PROBLEMS
- Most diseases can generally be prevented by avoiding over-watering and excess standing moisture
- Watering the last few weeks before harvesting will shorten the life of your bulbs
- For your next garlic crop, save only fully matured, larger bulbs with plump cloves
- Store your planting bulbs the same way you would your long-term storage garlic. (See Storage)
- In warmer regions, hard neck garlic must be put through an artificial ‘cold spell’ by storing in a cool, dry location with good air circulation at 45-50°F for approximately 3 weeks before planting to induce sprouting
this past season i lost about a third of my crop to some
disease. the stem just above ground level seemed to rot away. the top of the bulb turned yellow and mushy. iam concerned as i dont want this to happen again next year. any comments or ideas on what to do???
There are a few things that can cause the cloves to rot.
1) Too much water or poor drainage.
2) Sclerotia: this white rot fungus may spread through a your garden or from field to field by flooding, farm implements, or via other plant material. It thrives in cooler, wetter conditions. Unfortunately, it can last 10 years with no onions or garlic planted in an area.
3) Botrytis: similar to sclerotia, this will typically spread in warmer weather rather than in cool weather.
4) Penicillium molds may also cause the yellow top on the bulb…this spore is wind-borne.
5) Planting too early in the fall.
1) Make sure you clean any implements coming from your neighbor you may borrow.
2) Plant later in the fall, after the soil temp has dropped below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
3) Don’t overwater or plant in areas with poor drainage. Both sclerotia and botrytis are encouraged by too much moisture, poor drainage, and poor air circulation (caused by planting your garlic too close together).
4) Dip your garlic cloves in 115 degree water for a few seconds to kill sclerotia. Don’t let the temp reach 120 degrees. This will kill the garlic, which I don’t think is a good solution 🙂
5) Rotate allium crops such as onions and garlic and leeks annually to reduce sclerotia, botrytis, or penicillium molds.
Hopefully you can get a good crop next year and these tips will help you to do that…good luck!