Most people consider vegetable-growing as time-consuming and labor-intensive. However, there are easy crops that do not need much attention, and garlic is one of them.
Garlic falls into two main categories: softneck and hardneck garlic. The main difference between the two is the way the arrangement of the cloves. In a hardneck garlic, the cloves are next to each other surrounding a hard stem called a scape. In the softneck variety, they stacked over each other.
Hardneck garlic Vs Softneck garlic:
The following table sums up the other differences.
|Cloves form around a flowering stem called a scape||No stem. The cloves are stacked over each other.|
|Do better in cold climates||Do better in warm climates|
|Easy to peel||Harder to peel|
|Strong flavor||Mild flavor|
|Fewer, but bigger cloves||More, but smaller cloves per head|
|Doesn’t store well for more than six months.||It may be stored for the year to come.|
When is the best time to plant garlic in Central Texas?
Garlic is a cool-season crop, and it requires a few cold snaps to be able to split into cloves. So, the point of reference for planting is the first frost date. In central Texas, it comes around December 2nd. Planting garlic anywhere between October 15 and November 30 is ideal. Planting it too soon or too late may result in poor clove formation.
Do I need to fertilize garlic?
Garlic needs high Nitrogen fertilizer throughout the growing season. Adding compost two weeks before planting to the soil provides the initial feed. Then, follow up with a fish emulsion or seaweed feed for maintenance.
What kind of soil for garlic to grow?
Garlic needs loose and well-draining soil. Heavy clay holds too much moisture, which may cause rot. It is also too heavy for the clove to expand. Sandy soil holds no water causing the dehydration of the plant thus no cloves.
How much sunlight does garlic need?
Garlic needs full sun for proper growth. Full sun means six to eight hours of direct sunlight. Fewer hours lead to slower growth and a higher risk of poor clove formation. If the foliage does not absorb enough light, there is not enough food and energy sent to the roots to form the bulb.
How to plant garlic?
If you can afford it, get your bulbs from a certified grower, otherwise use organic good quality garlic from the store.
- Choose good-looking bulbs. They should be firm to the touch and have to sign of mold or bruises on them.
- Carefully separate the cloves, making sure the wrap stays intact.
- Choose big, firm, blemish-free, and mold-free cloves.
- Put the clove in the ground pointy side up. The depth should be twice as much the size of the clove itself.
- Cover with soil and water thoroughly.
How far should I space my garlic?
Space garlic 4 inches apart following the square-foot garden spacing chart. In one square foot, you can grow nine garlic plants.
To save space, you may consider intercropping garlic with another vegetable. Plant garlic in the perimeters of the growing bed or in between the plants.
In the picture below, garlic is surrounding the potato bed.
Intercropping is growing two or more crops together in the same space in a beneficial manner. There are different approaches to intercropping.
- Row intercropping is growing in rows.
- Strip intercropping is a more industrialized version with rows of individual crops. The rows are big enough to be harvested with machinery.
- Mixed intercropping is bunching plants together purposefully.
- Relay intercropping is like succession planting. It is the planting of a new crop around one that is nearing harvest.elay intercropping is like succession planting. It is the planting of a new crop around one that is nearing harvest.
How often should I water my garlic?
In most seasons, rainfall is enough to fulfill garlic water requirements. With that said, Texas weather is dry most of the time. Supplemental watering might be needed in case of a long dry spell.
Stop watering the garlic two weeks before harvest to allow the bulb and its protective skin to dry out.
When to harvest garlic?
Garlic takes about 33 to 39 weeks from planting to harvest. When close to harvest time, the green tops turn yellow and dry. To check the size of the bulb, tease the ground at the base of the stem.
How to harvest garlic?
The best way to harvest garlic is to use a garden fork. Insert the fork into the soil around the bulb, being careful not to damage it. Press down on the handle to lift the bulb. You may need to repeat the process till the soil is loose enough to lift the bulb easily.
Never pull the bulb from its top with your hand as you risk breaking them apart, leaving the bulb in the ground.
How to store garlic?
After harvesting the garlic, make sure not to wash off the dirt. Lay it on a crate or a table and allow it to dry in a sunny spot. Avoid cutting the stem off before the drying process is complete. You risk losing the garlic to rot.
Once the outer skin is paper, brush the dirt off. Softneck garlic’s stem is soft enough to be made into a braid for easy hanging. The hardneck garlic’s stem is too stiff for braiding, so tying it into bundles is much easier.
Keep the cured garlic in a cool and airy spot for long storage.
- Soaking garlic cloves in seaweed and baking soda solution: Some gardeners find it useful to soak garlic cloves in a mixture of 1/2 gallon water, 1 tablespoon baking soda, and 1 tablespoon seaweed. They believe it enhances the germination rate.
- Soaking in rubbing alcohol: This practice prevents mold from forming.
- Elephant garlic is actually a leek and not garlic.
Different uses for garlic
Garlic has many proven medicinal benefits. The most common one is that of fighting the common cold. One of grandma’s health practices is to crush a garlic clove and steep it in warm milk. The drink may sound unappetizing, but it is effective to suppress a cough.
Garlic is also useful in the garden as a rodent deterrent. Pulse a good amount of garlic with water to make a potent solution. Then strain it and fill a spray bottle to use on plants.