Master Gardener: Learning how to growing garlic: Part 1

Published 12:09 am Saturday, October 16, 2021

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by John Green

Master Gardener


Garlics’ history includes several thousand years of human consumption and use.  It was known to ancient Egyptians and has been used as both a food flavoring and a traditional medicine. While garlics history is interesting, this article is not about history!!

Most of us cook with garlic regularly, but have you considered growing your own garlic?  The garlic you buy in the grocery store has been in storage prior to being put out in the produce section of your favorite store.  The cold storage throws garlic’s internal clock out of whack delaying it from aging.  Growing your own garlic is not complicated.  The taste of fresh garlic is Amazing and more intense than store bought.

There are three types of garlic: Softneck, Hardneck. and Elephant.

Softneck garlic grows best in the south and areas where winters are mild. Most varieties do not produce scapes (the thin green curled stalk), but they are great for braiding. Varieties include Creole, Silver Rose, Loiacono, and Early Italian

Hardneck types are adapted to cold winter areas, and all produce curled scapes in early summer.  Popular varieties include porcelain, purple stripe, Montana Giant and Shilla.

Elephant garlic produces a large, mild-flavored bulb comprised of 4-6 big cloves.  It is closely related to leeks.

Garlic is best planted in the fall or early winter.  Garlic can be planted in the spring, but we are going to concentrate on fall planting, as the roots develop during these months along with wintertime and then by early spring you will start to see some green leaf growth, which is required for large bulbs to form.

Plant garlic in a raised bed in a spot not recently used for garlic or other plants in the onion family.  Work rich compost into the top 6 inches of soil along with 10-10-10 fertilizer.  Soil must be loose and well drained.

Separate the garlic bulbs into individual cloves.  Plant each clove, pointed end up, covering with 1 or 2 inches of soil.  Make certain to space each clove about 4” apart.  Once planted, cover with about 4” of mulch or straw to help protect during winter low temps.

In the spring when leaves begin to appear, it’s time to feed the plants with a teaspoon or two of a high -nitrogen fertilizer that decomposes slowly, such as blood meal which should be worked into the soil near the plant.  Add more mulch as needed.

When the leaves start to turn brown, the garlic is ready to harvest.  You can start checking when there are 5-6 leaves left.  Garlic needs to cure before you store it. Bundle 8-12 plants together by their leaves and hang them to dry.  Garlic needs to cure for about two weeks or until stalks have turned brown.  Remove garlic bulbs from leaves and store inside.   I’ll share more about garlic next week!

If you have gardening questions, please contact Orange County Master Gardeners:


Facebook: Orange County Texas Master Gardeners Association

Orange County Master Gardner Helpline: (409) 882-7010