With a little bit of planning, you can plant a garlic patch that will keep on producing, year after year.
What would you say if I told you that you may never have to buy garlic from the store again? Believe it or not, garlic is one crop that can be grown as a perennial. Here are the basic steps to start your own perpetual supply of spicy garlic bulbs.
Choose the right varieties.
There are two kinds of garlic: soft neck and hard neck. What you probably see in the grocery stores, or braided in long strands, is the soft neck variety. It is named this because the tops remain pliable, somewhat like scallions. Hard neck garlic is a bit harder to come by, with a woody central stem and fewer, larger cloves.
Spring garlic scapes only come from the hard neck varieties, so you may want to plant a bit of both to give yourself the best of both worlds. Whatever you decide, make sure you buy your seed garlic from a reputable source to make sure it sprouts and produces well.
Courtesy of Cedar Circle Farm
Dig your garden bed.
If you're starting with an existing sunny spot in your garden, till it over well and amend it with your favorite fertilizer, additional top soil, and aerate the top 12 inches or so of the ground. Garlic doesn't grow very deeply and what you plant will live here for a long time!
Plant, then wait and see.
Separate the cloves from each bulb of garlic, then place them in the ground with the flat side down. Keep about 4 to 6 inches between each bulb, and keep them watered weekly throughout the growing season.
Courtesy of Burpee
In the winter, just let the garlic snooze and start watering again when you see green tops emerge in the spring. When the top start to yellow in the spring, stop the weekly showers and let the bulbs have their final growth spurt.
Check your seed garlics' notes to know when to harvest the different varieties you planted. A good visual cue is when the majority of the tops are limp and browning on the edges. You will need to cure your garlic for at least two weeks after you dig it up, hung up to dry in a protected spot. A clothesline in the garage is perfect for this. With proper storage, your harvest should last you at least several months.
Photo by Yogesh Pedamkar
To create a perpetual garlic garden, you have to leave some of your harvest behind to over-winter. Pull up about three fourths of what you planted, then mulch over the rest when the first frost hits. In the spring, carefully dig up the young sprout clusters and plant them in the garden again with proper spacing. Keep an eye on the hard neck garlic flowers that emerge from the scapes in the summer; they will produce bulbils which can be planted as seed as well.
For more information about growing garlic, check out this great online resource by Grey Duck Garlic.
Have you ever tried your hand at planting garlic? What are your favorite varieties and how are their yields? Let us know in the comments!