Today, we’re going to learn about planting garlic and gonna explain everything you need to know, so without any further, let’s get started…
Garlic is one of the most popular crops to grow in fall, and for good reason. It’s a super long-season crop. It has a ton of different varieties and while it is a relatively easy plant to grow, I find that many people, myself included in the past, have had some problems growing garlic. So, in this article, we’re going to be talking about hardneck vs softneck, different varieties, soil preparation, planting, and mulching. As well as some general garlic tips on timing, pre-soaking, etc. So, stay tuned, let’s go ahead and talk about the different types of garlic.
When it comes to garlic, there are really two sorts of classifications that matter, that would be softneck or hardneck. I’m going to discuss softneck first and keep in mind one thing that softneck grows in a warmer climate. If you’re growing in a colder climate, hardneck is a little bit more suitable. But the first one we’re looking at, California Early. This is the most commonly cultivated garlic in America, I believe, and for good reason. As the name suggests, it can grow in many different climates. It does not require a super cold season. So, it’s a little bit more productive as far as bulb size, and it comes to maturity relatively easily. So that’s a softneck garlic.
Difference Between Hardneck and Softneck Garlic:
As you might imagine, the difference between softneck and hardneck is the neck. The thai purple garlic has a hard neck in the middle. Now, the difference between those two, and there are quite a few, is not only the neck, but the flavor. Oftentimes, hardneck varieties are said to have a more garlicky flavor. Whereas, softneck varieties can be a little bit more mild.
Now, that’s kind of up to your own palate, but I do find that holds to be the case with hardneck garlic. For example, the thai purple has a little more fire, a little more spice, a little more variety, and distinction in the flavor. Now, these also do require a cold period. They require vernalization to really produce well. One more thing I wanna let you know that the shandong hardneck garlic, all research indicates that the longer you can keep them in the fridge, up to about three months or so, the better. Eight weeks is the minimum. you could get about six weeks and you may have had them in the fridge for six weeks in a folded brown paper bag. That’s just to not completely suffocate them, but not also dry them out completely either. So, a decent amount of humidity. You don’t want to really desiccate these things.
Another Difference Between Hardneck and Softneck Garlic:
Another difference between hardneck and softneck garlic is that with your softnecks, like again, the California early that the clove structure is quite different. There are way more cloves per bulb on softneck than hardneck because of that hardneck goes through the middle that prevents clove formation and so what you typically have is the larger but lower amount of cloves on the hardnecks and you have more cloves, but they’re generally smaller per clove, on the softnecks.
There is a third type of garlic, it’s elephant garlic. It is actually closely related to the leek, much closer to the leek than it is to garlic. So, elephant garlic, true to its name, is a massive producer.
There are many other garlic as well, such as Spanish Roja, it’s a hardneck garlic variety with a bit larger of a bulb. The next one is Georgia Crystal, this is a very distinct hardneck garlic and it has four cloves per bulb. The next one is Inchelium red, this is a fantastic producer. Then Lorz Italian, which is supposed to be mostly just like a classic Italian variety of garlic. Then here it is Xian. The coloration on Xian is very, very purple on the skin.
No 03: Timing and Pre-prep
Now, what we need to talk about is some timing and pre-prep for the cloves. When growing garlic, of course, you need to separate your bulbs into their constituent cloves but what’s really important there is to be very discriminatory when you’re doing this and only make sure to plant the largest cloves. So, go ahead and dismantle the garlic, and then you’re going to be very, very particular about the ones that you decide to plant. Because this is a long-season crop. You don’t want to plant small cloves. It’s just not going to do that much for you.
It is an optional step and that would be a presoak. So, you need to have eight cups of water and what you’re going to do is add two key ingredients. You should have some baking soda and a little bit of Fish Fertilizer and I recommend using Kelp Fertilizer if it’s available and what this is going to do is, it may help start the rooting process just a little bit faster, similar to when you presoak other types of seeds. Even though these are cloves, not seeds. You’re going to sprinkle about one and a half tablespoons of baking soda, and then what you’ll also do is mix in just a little bit of the fish fertilizer. It can be a little stinky. Again, I would recommend kelp fertilizer.
Now, if you have many varieties of garlic so I would recommend you to prep separate jars because the last thing you want to do is have just spent all this time separating and filtering out your best cloves and then mix them all up together. So, you’re going to do that and you’re going to let this soak no longer than 18 hours. So honestly, a couple of hours is good. Now, Put these all in your jars, let them soak and I highly recommend that you label the jars or have a labeling system.
No 04: Bed Preparation
Garlic is an extremely heavy feeder throughout the season. It grows in a long, long season. So, you need to make sure that you do your bed prep correctly. You’re going to add a couple different amendments just to make sure that you’re getting your garlic off to the right start. You don’t need to go crazy at the beginning of your garlic’s life, though. What I will say is you want some kind of compost. You need some soil conditioner. You need Alfalfa Meal and as well as you need Neem Cake Fertilizer. You guys know neem oil, neem cake is the pressed cake that’s left after extracting the oil. It still has a lot of anti-pathogenic and anti-pest properties and it also has a pretty decent nitrogen phosphorus potassium ratio.
So, you’re going to add that but before you add in all of your amendments and prepare your bed, you do want to make sure you loosen the soil a significant amount. Garlic wants nice loose soil.
Now, you’re gonna add a couple inches of the compost. You’re going to add a handful or two of the neem cake. You’re going to add a little bit of the alfalfa meal as well. After that, you need to make sure you mix it in nice and good.
No 05: Garlic Spacing
I like to use something like a dibber. You could use literally anything that pokes a hole in the ground but for most of these varieties, anywhere from four to six inches apart is a good idea. A little bit of diagonal action can also help. Now, the only thing I’ll say is that when you’re doing elephant garlic, which again is closely related to the leek, it will put out bulbils and so you’ll need to space them out quite a bit further than you would normal garlic and I honestly would recommend growing them in a separate area. When your garlic has finished soaking, you can just go ahead and get straight to start planting.
No 06: Planting Direction and Depth
The first thing to know is the planting direction, which is very intuitive I hope, but let’s go ahead and mention it. So, you want to go roots down and stem side up. Pointy side up otherwise your garlic is going to be in a whole lot of trouble.
As far as planting depth for your garlic, if you have california early there, so this is going to be climate-dependent. Most of us grow through fall, that experience is a frost and you want your garlic to be protected from that frost and certainly to root up and have a robust root system before the frost comes. So, if you’re in a colder zone, you plant deeper, maybe four to six inches deep. When you’re gonna plant them always remember, pointy side up.
No 07: Mulching
Colder climates, more mulch. In warmer climates, still, you can use a lot of mulch, but you don’t have to go super, super hard on the mulch. Sometimes, it’s recommended up to four to six inches if you are in those extremely cold zones. You just don’t want to go through a freezing and thawing cycle because that’s going to push them up to the surface and it’s just not that good for young developing garlic cloves.
Garlic can take anywhere from a couple of weeks to a little bit over a month, depending on the depth that you planted it at, to actually come out and sprout. So, definitely be patient after you’ve planted your garlic.
No 08: Watering
The thing about garlic is it’s a shallow-rooted plant. You have your bulb. First of all, you have your clove, then you have your bulb, and as soon as that bulb starts to form, when you pull garlic out of the ground, you know that the roots maybe go to there or so, maybe a couple inches and that means that if the water is not present in that very shallow root zone, during this all-important growth phase, you’re in a pretty bad spot. It’s not going to develop much further. It’s not going to grow much further, no matter how much light it gets, no matter how much fertilizer it gets.
Now, the thing about when to water, everyone asks this question.
When do I water?
How often do I water?
The real answer is when the plant needs it. You need to know what the plant wants, the specific plant you’re growing, in this case, Garlic know how the plant grows. If you know, it has a shallow root system, of course, that’s going to change the way that you approach both the watering and the planting of the plant. Now, another thing I’ll say specifically, again, if you are in this warmer zone or you planted your garlic in the spring and not the fall, I would say you probably might want to consider some sort of shade cloth. So, you’re going to lay some 50% shade cloth over the top. 50% means half the sunlight should be cut.
Now that does hamper a little bit of the photosynthesis, but it’s a trade-off, I’d rather have a little bit less light to prevent the heat buildup on the soil and then of course, down in the bulb zone where it’s really not going to like that until it starts to bulb up. You could probably go a little harder if you’re unfamiliar with how to actually know if you’re finished watering, just dig down in the soil, build familiarity and you’ll get to it.
Now, let’s talk about fertilizing. So how do you actually fertilize your garlic effectively? … Especially, if you’ve planted a ton of it, so, you can just sprinkle granular fertilizer around and then water it in every so often and eventually it will break down. I personally have been really preferential to using a liquid fertilizer. This is an Espoma Organic liquid, all-purpose. So, it’s a two to two and it is bioavailable right away because it’s water-soluble. A liquid can be really good for that, but how do I actually apply this? … Do I dilute it in water? … No, you do this. You need Epic Homestead Fertigation. So, irrigation plus fertilizing fertigation.
Now, Epic homestead says insecticide sprayer. Don’t worry about that. You’re using it for fertilizer. what you do is give a nice, good shake and fills up to about five gallons or so. So, what you’re going to do is the back of this says to use about one dose per gallon, maybe two doses per gallon. You can either go on the lighter side or as you want. So, that’s what you’re putting in and then you have to fill it up and that seems like it’s not a lot after that start watering.
Two more points on fertilizing, number one, you really want to cut out the fertilizing as you start to see bulb formation, but how do you know? … Right? … Because the bulbs form under the ground, you want to look for the stock to start to really thicken up a decent amount of leaf growth on top. That will be your cue to cut fertilizing completely. Just keep it well, watered, and manage some of the issues that we’ll talk about in the next article and as far as frequency goes, I would say maybe three, four times throughout the season up until right before that bulb starts to form is probably a good idea, again, you’re trying to get those leaves really, really nice and bushy, nice and healthy. So, it can send all that energy down into the bulb.
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