Row by Row Episode 217: Choosing The RIGHT Garlic To Grow
Garlic is one of the easiest crops to grow in the home garden. You can plant a large amount in a small space, it doesn’t have many pests or diseases, and it loves cold weather. In fact, it’s so simple to grow that you can plant it and basically forget about it until you harvest it nine months later. Let's discuss choosing the right garlic to grow!
It's the perfect vegetable for beginning gardeners because it's so forgiving; start searching early as garlic tends to sell out rather quickly. Most of the world's garlic is grown in China, and most of the garlic grown in the United States is in California. There are over 700 cultivated varieties in the world.
History On Garlic
In ancient times Garlic was celebrated as a source of great strength. Greek Olympians ate before competitions, Roman soldiers ate before battle, and during WW2 when penicillin was a shortage, was used on soldiers' wounds to prevent infection. Today considered a superfood, stimulating the immune system and helping to fight disease. Chemical Allicin:
- Reduces Blood Pressure
- Lowers Cholesterol
- Contains Antioxidants
- Boost immune system
Because of the combination of heart-related benefits and antioxidants, has been said to help with the prevention of Alzheimer's and dementia. (One clove twice a day)
Types Of Garlic - Choosing The RIGHT Garlic To Grow
Hard Neck Garlic
Forms cloves around the center of the stalk have a central core. Easier to peel, Ideal for Northern climates and cold, harsher winters. Does not braid well due to the hard stalk. More Flavorful. Because the outer paper on the bulb is thinner, they won’t store as long as soft neck garlic. It creates a scape that's great for stir fry, and pesto. You need to cut this off when appears so energy will go to the bulb and not to the flower.
German White garlic is a very large hard neck, porcelain type botanically classified as Allium sativum. This variety is widely grown for both its garlic scapes, which are false flower stalks that can be eaten as vegetables, and for their silvery white, papery bulbs. German White garlic is sometimes called Northern White garlic and German Extra-Hardy. German White garlic is believed to be native to northern Germany. It is a very hardy variety and grows best in climates with cooler winters, though it will grow well in any climate. Differences in the growing environment will have a direct impact on the size of the cloves.
Soft Neck Garlic
The mild flavor usually has more cloves but is smaller. Ideal for milder winters and fewer chill hours. Most commonly found in Grocery stores. The garlic that most of us cook with is the soft neck, so called because its neck is soft and braid-able. Soft neck garlic contains a circle of plump cloves shrouding the second circle of smaller cloves, all enveloped by many papery layers. Longer storage life, due to more layers of paper. It can be stored for up to a year. Drainage biggest issue with soft neck, needs well-drained soil, wet feet in cold wet winter causes damage
Not really garlic, but technically and botanically a leek. Looks like giant garlic. Super mild flavor, less medicinal, more bang for your buck. The very mild flavor is ideal for soups, salads, and sauces leaving no garlic aftertaste. The cloves are milder and sweeter than true garlic varieties and have a yellow hue. Elephant garlic can have the flavor of onion and leeks mixed with soft notes of garlic.
Growing Tips & Tricks - Choosing The RIGHT Garlic To Grow
How much garlic to plant
(1 bulb = 8 cloves or 8 plants, 8 bulbs – 68 plants) If you think you use one garlic bulb a week, then you might want to grow around 65 bulbs. Enough for 1 per week and some to replant in the fall.
When to plant garlic
- USDA Zone 3 – plant in early to late September
- Zones 3b to 5b – plant in late Sept. to early Oct.
- Zones 5b to 7b – plant in mid to late Oct.
- Zones 7b to 9b – plant in late Oct. to Nov.
Where to plant garlic
Sunny Spot, rich soil amended with compost and well-balanced complete organic fertilizer. Does not like acidic soil. Don’t break apart until you are ready to plant. Inspect cloves and don’t plant any with issues. Pointed side up. 4-6 inches apart, Row 1 foot apart.
Can you plant garlic from the grocery store?
You can try it, but it may have a growth inhibitor, or it might be carrying diseases, and also not the right type for your area. Don’t plant the garlic you buy from the grocery store. It’s possible that it could have been sprayed by an anti-sprouting agent and it’s likely a soft neck type grown in either California or China.
Check out our Elephant Garlic Growing Guide for more tips and tricks!