The first time I ever grew garlic I produced the smallest bulbs of garlic I’d ever seen. I lost interest in growing garlic after that —- at least until last year.
Two things made me decide that garlic was something I definitely wanted to start growing again:
- Learning where most grocery store garlic comes from. (See my last post on garlic.)
- Learning how to make sure I get large bulbs rather than small ones.
You probably already know the normal stuff like planting 30 days before cold sets in so the roots can get established in soil with good drainage and lots of organic matter. And of course it needs mulch to protect it in the winter and hold moisture.
Now we get to some requirements that a lot of folks don’t know. I mentioned these 3 things in the last post on garlic but they bear repeating because they’re important if you want to get big bulbs:
- Large cloves make large bulbs; small cloves make small bulbs.
- Plant about 1 inch deep in the South; 2 to 3 inches in the North because of heaving after a freeze. (Like onions, if you plant garlic too deep you’ll end up with very small bulbs.)
- Space at least 5 to 6 inches. Bulb size will be larger if they have enough space.
Choosing the right varieties for you
Even if you do all the things mentioned above — you can still get small bulbs if you don’t get the right variety.
Rather than spend years trying new varieties to see which one will make big bulbs in your garden — search for a supplier who is from your state and grows the garlic you’ll be buying. They will usually tell you all about that variety on their website.
I did a lot of looking before I ordered last year and found the varieties that other Virginia growers had been successful growing. Finally I chose to order from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. They’re in Virginia and they grow all the varieties that I had choosen.
I’ve been pleased with the results of my choices. The Italian Softneck was just the size I wanted it to be. So was the Music variety which is a hardneck. The German Extra Hardy (another hardneck) was a bit smaller than the others, but still nice.
Saving Enough to Plant this coming October
I’d like to double my planting this year to 120 cloves. That should give me enough garlic to eat for the year and enough to plant the following year.
This year I’ll attempt to save a couple of my biggest bulbs of each variety until October. I don’t want to break them open any sooner than the day I plant since it promotes dehydration.
If I end up having to break some apart before October (to use the small cloves), I’ll store the large cloves in the refrigerator until time to plant. (Once they’re refrigerated, they’ll sprout if you take them out. That’s something you don’t want.)
Garlic stores well at temperatures from 50 to 60 degrees. (Like onions.) My storage space ranges from 60 to 70 in the summer — but onions still keep well for me. Probably the garlic will too. (I’ll cure them first of course.)
I hope your garlic harvest was just what you had hoped for. If not — now is the time to research the varieties you’ll need to make your garlic harvest next year your biggest and best.
For more Information on Growing Garlic:
Organic Gardening is easy, effective, efficient — and it’s a lot healthier.
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