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As a founding employee of Gardener's Supply, I wore many different hats over the years. Currently, I have my own company called Johnnie Brook Creative. The gardens around my home in Richmond, VT, include a large vegetable garden, seasonal greenhouse, cutting garden, perennial gardens, rock garden, shade garden, berry plantings, lots of container plants and a meadow garden. There's no place I'd rather be than in the garden.
Garlic is one of the easiest crops you can grow. In most regions of the country, garlic is planted in the fall. By that time, many summer crops have already been harvested, leaving some free garden space. Just remember that the garlic bed won't be available for another type of crop until late next summer, when it's time to harvest the garlic you planted the previous fall.
If you're replanting garlic from your own stock, choose the biggest and best heads from the summer's harvest. If purchasing, look for garlic sold specifically for planting. Garlic from the produce section at the supermarket may have been treated with a sprout inhibitor to prevent it from growing.
There are several types of garlic.
Hardneck garlic varieties produce a stiff stem that grows up through the center of the bulb. Compared to softneck varieties, then tend to have a sharper flavor, with more variation in flavor among the varieties. They're hardier, too, making them a good choice for regions with very cold winters. Once harvested, the bulbs have a somewhat shorter shelf life than softneck varieties.
Softneck garlic varieties don't produce a stiff central stem. This list the type of garlic you'll find at most supermarkets. It has a relatively mild flavor. Softneck garlic is the best choice for regions with mild winters, and it's the type to grow if you want to make garlic braids.
Elephant garlic resembles a giant head of garlic and, indeed, it does belong to the same genus, Allium. However, it isn't a "true" garlic but rather is more closely related to the leek.
DETERMINING when garlic is ready to harvest is one of the trickiest parts about growing it. If you harvest too soon the cloves will be small and underdeveloped (certainly usable but not as big and plump as possible). If you wait too long, as the heads dry the cloves will begin to separate and the head won't be tight and firm (also not a disaster, but the cloves will be more vulnerable to decay and drying out so they won't store as long).
Though it depends somewhat on the growing season and where you live, garlic is usually ready to harvest in late July. The slideshow below, with photos from my own garden, shows what to watch for. Properly curing the heads is also important and you'll see that as well.
Last updated: 2/12/19
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