Want to Grow Garlic Like a Pro? Here’s our process
Following these simple steps will help you experience growing the best and most beneficial garlic imaginable, impressing your loved ones with flavor and having fun while growing it!
Table of Contents:
- Calculate amounts to plant
- Order early from EDN FARMS
- Get a soil test
- Amend soil
- Plant timing and Vodka bath
- Plant and cover with straw
- Wait to spring fertilize and weed
- Cut Scapes
- Order early from EDN FARMS for next season
- Harvest and cure
- One or two hands
- A small spade or hand trowel
Calculate How Much to Grow. Determine what you want your varieties, yield, and your allotted growing space to be. EDN Farms gives vivid varietal descriptions to help match you to the varietals you want, but don't be afraid to explore! Figure out how much you might want to grow, then add a bit more, being realistic regarding your growing space. Hardnecks typically do not store as long as Softnecks, but we provide helpful suggestions on how to store a supply of gourmet garlic year round.
Order Your Bulbs from EDN Farms. It is important to purchase your seed cloves from a responsible grower. We believe that responsible gourmet garlic growers produce as organically as possible if not beyond organic like us. Whether or not they choose to become certified, they will keep records of their processes that they are proud to provide. As you await your glorious planting day, you are going to need a place to store the bulbs you've ordered once they arrive. Choose a cool, dry place, out of sunlight, between 50 and 65 degrees F and 50 and 65% humidity as premature sprouting could occur. We highly recommend storing in mesh bags or paper bags with the bag top left open. Keep them separated and identified throughout every process for maximum value.
Get a Soil Test. We always recommend having a soil test done, collecting at least a 2 cup sample ranging from 0" to 8" depth and mixed from various spots in your planned growing area, then mailed to a lab for testing. If your state's lab does not have recommendations for garlic specifically, we suggest that you find a lab that does. The lab's recommendations will probably be in "PPA" (pounds per acre). Your trusted garden center or fertilizer representative will calculate your required amendments. Buy 20% more soil amendments than required before planting and save it for a spring booster application. Amend your soil as necessary; making sure you have plenty of potassium, as it effects bulb size.
Amend Soil. When adding your recommended soil amendments, till or hoe to loosen your soil, to give your bulbs room to grow and expand. If you leave your soil "no-till", your bulbs will suffer, period. At EDN Farms, we are blessed with beneficial soil factors, but even so, to ensure protection from water retention around the roots AKA "wet feet," we plant in raised row beds.
Timing your Planting & Vodka Bath. Now, "wait for it... wait for it", PLANTING TIME! We realize you're anxious to "dig in", but wait. Don't break the bulbs apart and separate the cloves until planting day. Most hardneck garlic prefers a cooler climate. However, even in the hotter southern regions, hardneck garlic can be grown well. The warmer zones that don’t freeze can require some refrigeration around the 32F degree mark for 6 to 8 weeks. If refrigeration is necessary, you may want to separate cloves before refrigeration. For the cooler zones that typically experience 6 to 8 weeks around the 32F degree mark, just wait until planting day to separate cloves. We separate cloves by hand to prevent damage.
We plant in mid fall or later, early enough for the roots to get established before repetitive nights of 28F degrees or below. Don't worry too much about the perfect timing; just be planted before the ground is frozen. But if you want a challenge, you can use a cordless drill with a one inch bit to drill through the frozen ground to plant.
Other than that, it's "Vodka Time". The vodka is for your garlic!, to take a quick sanitizing bath. Maybe save a little for yourself, but this is no place for expensive vodka. Soak your unpeeled, individual cloves in vodka for 10 minutes. Remember, keep your varieties separated and labeled, especially if your cloves aren't the only ones dipping into cheap vodka! Strain your cloves out of the vodka and let them dry while you get holes in your growing space ready for planting. Using your fingers or other device, make holes just wide enough for a clove to rest; 3 inches deep and a minimum of 6.5 inches apart from each other. If using a worm tea, pour a shot (1.5 oz) into each hole.
Plant and Cover with Straw. Place cloves into the holes with their root plate down and point up. Gently sweep some surrounding soil to fill in and cover the hole, then give a gentle pat. Again, remember to keep your varieties separated and identified. Place a stake, permanently labeled, with the name of the variety at the start and stop of each variety's row. It may also help to draw a map of your planting. Almost done! Cover the rows you've made with a mulch of clean weed-free wheat straw, leaves, or even corn husks. Do not place compacted flakes of straw over your garlic rows. You will not be saving time and can be asking for trouble. If using a blower/chopper, cover with a 3-inch chop length blanket of straw, 4 inches deep. Now wait for spring and start sampling any cloves you may have left over.
Fertilize and Weed in the Spring. Fast forward to spring. Your planted cloves will be sending little sprouts up through the straw blanket. The time has now come for a little fertilizer boost after a long winter nap. Using the 20% extra fertilizer you've saved from "Step 3", apply the fertilizer around the base of each garlic stalk. At EDN Farms, we have a motto of "feed the plant, not the weeds". Do not fertilize any more after this early spring treatment. Research has shown, at this stage of growth is where substantial potassium uptake occurs for maximum bulb size. Like with all growing, keep an eye on rain amounts. Your garlic is going prefer a consistent 1 inch of rain per week. Water only when necessary and not after June 21st.
Now that we've mentioned weeds it's time to discuss weeding. We REFUSE to use ANY PESTICIDES OR HERBICIDES and we are meticulous about hand weeding, because if garlic has to compete with weeds, the weeds will win, substantially reducing garlic bulb size. There are tools and mechanical ways to weed, just keep in mind that there may be risks involved if you use them. For us, our garlic is far too valuable to risk nicking or damaging bulbs.
Cut Scapes. "The scapes are coming, the scapes are coming!" If you've planted hardnecks, you're going to start seeing a curly little stalk coming out of the top of your garlic plant. These are called the scapes, and they're delicious! Only let them get long enough to do something with in the kitchen, because when they're growing, that's where the plant's energy is being directed, and we want that energy going toward developing a bigger bulb. Pinch off or cut to remove the scape once it gets one full curl. This can be the time to start removing some, if not all, of the straw mulch. If you've had a lot of rain, the mulch can hold too much moisture in the soil, potentially causing rot like "wet feet" at the finishing stage of your garlic's growing cycle. Too much moisture can also cause a muddy and messy harvest. We allow the first and last plant of each variety row to grow its scape, possibly sacrificing its bulb growth. Why? Have you ever seen the roasting turkeys with the pop-up indicators? Garlic is ready to be harvested within a few days of scape completely uncurling and pointing straight to the sky.
Order Next Season’s Crop. Now that you've removed and enjoyed the scapes, maintained a relatively weed-free growing space, and realized how easy and fun this is, it's time to start thinking about next season's bounty. You can save your biggest bulbs and plant as many cloves as you wish when the time comes. Come back to EDN Farms early, to restock and add new varieties for the coming season!
Harvest time. There are two ways your garlic will tell you it's time for harvest. Garlic is ready for harvest when the bottom three leaves have died back or when the scapes that were left to grow begin to uncurl and point straight to the sky. Each variety is ready at different times and we harvest each varietal only when they're ready. If you have planted softnecks, when 1/3 of your plant's leaves have yellowed and died back, it could be time to harvest.
Now that you know when to harvest, here's how to harvest. We undercut our raised rows, using a powerful tractor and an undercutting bar to loosen the soil from beneath the roots and bulb. This makes the hand harvesting quite a bit easier and gentler on the bulb when pulling the stalk. Most smaller scale growers will use a hand tool of their choice to gently loosen the soil around each bulb. Be sure to leave enough space away from the bulb so as not to damage the bulb as you loosen the soil. Then gently pull the stalk by the base, lifting the bulb, and give it a gentle, but firm, bump to knock off some soil. Remember, keep your varieties separated from each other and identified. We suggest getting them out of the sun as quickly as possible to prevent sunburning/cooking in the sun and heat. EDN FARM, chooses to harvest early in the morning or at late evening into the night before dew sets. Be sure to remove any and all garlic plant residue from your planting area and get rid of it. Do not use it for composting. Do this to do everything you can to prevent any garlic diseases from developing in your soil. Ordering your seed clove bulbs from EDN Farms will also help disease prevention, as we send randomized quality control samples to an independent lab for disease and nematode testing. We suggest not growing alliums (garlic, onion, scallion, shallot, leek, and chive) in the same location for 2 growing seasons after harvest.
Now that your garlic is harvested, lay them out on screens OR bundle them in groups of 10 or so, and tie them up to hang in a well ventilated shaded area to cure for 4 to 6 weeks. Once cured, cut stalks to 1.5 inches above the bulb and trim roots to a 1/4 inch and they're ready to eat or store. Done!
P.S. Remember to keep your varieties separated and identified, we can't say this enough!
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