Try Growing Garlic — So Many Different Varieties
Why grow your own garlic? Would you like to be able to cook with the absolute right garlic for your recipes? For a mild, classic garlic flavor use California Early Garlic, for salsa or any recipe that you eat raw use Siberian garlic, for a very aromatic baking recipe use Chesnok Red Garlic, for caramelizing garlic use Italian Red, and for a fiery hot flavor use Asian Tempest. Garlic has been grown for centuries. It's delicious, nutritious and easy to grow.
When to Plant
You can plant garlic from mid-October to mid-February, with larger bulbs developing when planted in the fall, allowing more time to mature. Start with certified disease-free bulbs. Separate cloves, do not peel, and plant pointy-end up, one inch down, and about 4 inches apart in rows 12 inches wide. After planting, wait to water until shoots emerge. Water when necessary but do not let the soil get soggy. If there are no issues with your garlic crop, you may save cloves as seeds for the next crop.
Best Varieties for Marin
Garlic is a food crop in the Allium genus in the Amaryillidaceae family. There are two types of garlic, softneck (Allium sativum) and hardneck (Allium ophioscorodon). Softneck garlic is best adapted to our Marin mild winters. The outer ring of cloves surrounds another ring of cloves (no center scape/stem). Softneck garlic stores better than hardneck garlic – up to a year. As an added bonus, the tops are good for braiding. Recommended varieties for Marin: California Early, California Late, Silverskin, Inchelium Red, Early Italian Purple, Mild French Silverskin
Hardneck garlic cloves are organized around a center stem, or scape. The cross section reveals one row of cloves around the stem. Hardneck garlic does well in colder, longer-day areas. The scapes from hardneck garlic are edible. Some growers recommend cutting the scape off before it blooms letting more energy go to the forming garlic bulb. Recommended varieties for Marin: Chesnok Red, Music, Spanish Roja, German Red, Asian Tempest, China Stripe, Italian Red Rocambole, Purple Glazer, Siberian
Best Cultural Practices
Plant garlic in well-draining soil and add mulch once tops have peeked through. Planting garlic in a raised bed will help prevent the plants from rotting if there is a wet winter. Keep weeds controlled throughout the crop cycle. Garlic benefits from compost at planting and when garlic begins its strong re-growth in late winter. Fungal diseases to watch for include pink root, downy mildew and white rot all of which may be prevented using control methods including crop rotation and post- harvest clean up. Insects include onion maggot (avoid over-fertilization) and onion thrips (minimized by yard clean up). Garlic is also susceptible to mites, nematodes and cutworms. Between May and late June, the tips of garlic leaves will turn yellow even with adequate watering. This means the bulbs are nearly mature and should be watered less frequently. Too much water at this point could rot the garlic, and some recommend not watering at all after mid-May. In softneck varieties, the stem near the ground will begin to flatten and the mature plant may fall over. Hardneck types, because of the (scape) stem, won’t fall over. Mature bulbs have well developed, compact cloves throughout and 4-6 dry leaves wrapped around the entire bulb. (Feel free to harvest a test bulb, as you don’t want garlic to over-ripen, where cloves begin to separate from the bulb.) Harvest in late June or July by troweling gently under the bulb and then pulling the released plant from the soil.
Brush off the soil, and cure the whole plant in a warm, dry place out of direct sunlight for two to three weeks. When dry/cured, clean the bulb by brushing off dirt and outer layer of loose and broken skin. Cut roots to one inch. Braid the stems or cut them two inches from the bulb. Store garlic out of the sun in a cool, dry, airy place. Use safe methods to store and to preserve.
Garlic has been grown for centuries. It's delicious, nutritious and easy to grow. Consider trying to grow some garlic this winter. You may get hooked.
Original article by MMG Edible Guild in Backyard to Belly
Edited for MMG public website by Kathryn Parkinson 9/25/18?Photo courtesy of Napa Master Gardeners