Thursday, September 26, 2013

Growing Onions and Garlic in the South ~ Part Two Garlic

Welcome to Part Two in our series about autumn gardens growing onions and garlic. This time we'll discuss Mr. Garlic and how he grows.

Growing Garlic in the South:

Garlic has similar requirements to onions. Just in case you missed our first post, lets do a quick review.

 Feed the Soil, Not the Plant
"Raised beds are ideal for growing onions and garlic since they provide good drainage and can easily be amended by tilling 2”-3” of compost into the soil." (source: NC Cooperative Extension, Time to Plant...)
Garlic has difficulty growing in hard clay soils so the addition of organic matter (or compost) is a must.

 Garlic needs a soil pH of 6.0-7.0. (source: Clemson Cooperative Extension) Soil pH meters can be purchased at any hardware store, such as Lowes or Home Depot.

 Garlic also needs plenty of moisture during the growing season to help it form nice bulbs. When the garlic gets mature, less water is needed.

The best thing is to submit a soil test to your local extension agent and add any lime or fertilizer according to your test results.

Stay on top of any weeds, as they can force your garlic to compete for need moisture and nutrients.

Crop rotation is very important when growing members of the Allium family such as: shallots, onions, garlic, and leeks. Do not replant these in the same spot for at about four years. Instead, plant a different vegetable there next year. This helps prevent soil born diseases.

Planting Garlic Cloves
Botanical Garlic Print
 "Garlic needs 40 or more cold days below 40°F in order for the clove to split into a bulb." (source: NC Cooperative Extension Growing Garlic)  "Garlic must be planted in the fall to permit full development. Plant early enough in the season because vegetative growth ceases when the bulb develops in response to longer days and warmer temperatures in the spring." (source: Clemson Cooperative Extension)

Garlic is best planted in October around the Piedmont of North Carolina.

Garlic bulbs should be purchased from a greenhouse or garden center. Do not plant bulbs from the grocery store because these varieties might not be suited to your area. Often times, grocery store garlic is treated with a chemical to keep it from sprouting. (source: NC Cooperative Extension, Time to Plant...)

Garlic bulbs must be separated into individual cloves. Garlic gets planted with the flat side down and the pointy end up. Plant garlic "an inch or two deep, spaced 2 to 6 inches apart." (source: Charlotte Observer) Allow at least 12 inches between garlic rows.

Read more here:

Read more here:

Hard Neck or Soft Neck?
"The two basic types of garlic are called soft-necks and hard-necks. Soft-neck garlic varieties (ssp. sativum) do not make a seed stalk. They are good for braiding and tend to keep longer than hard-neck types. Hard-neck types (ssp. ophioscorodon) produce a seed stalk and peel easier than soft-neck garlic." (source: Clemson Cooperative Extension)

 "The trick to success in growing garlic in the Piedmont is finding a variety of garlic - softneck or hardneck, it doesn't matter - that harvests early, by May or June." (source: Charlotte Observer)

 Soft neck garlics are the kind typically found in supermarkets and are the most recommended for growing in the south. They grow in most areas and store well.

"Avoid planting the Creole types of softneck garlic (also called Early, Louisiana, and White Mexican) in western North Carolina because they are not very winter-hardy." (source:  NC Cooperative Extension, Garlic Production)

Rocambole garlics (a hardneck type) does not grow well in warm climates and are not recommended for the south.

Elephant Garlic
"Elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) is a leek, not a garlic. It produces a bulb up to four times larger than garlic and is much milder in flavor. It can be produced like garlic and grows well throughout North Carolina." (source: NC Cooperative Extension, Garlic Production)

Recommended Garlic Types
The following are only suggestions, and many other good garlic varieties are also available.

Read more here:
  • German Extra Hardy (hardneck)
  • New York White Neck (softneck)
  • Early Italian and also any other Italian varieties (softneck)
  • Music (hardneck)
  • Turban (hardneck)
  • Kettle River Giant (softneck)
  • Inchelium (softneck)
(Source: Charlotte Observer, and NC Cooperative Extension, Garlic Production)
Only hardneck garlics produce what is called a scape which is an edible flower stalk. "Scapes look strange and taste delicious, with a mild garlicky flavor." (source: Charlotte Observer)

The broken off unopened flowers buds can be eaten in salads.

For large bulb sizes, scapes (the flower stalk) must be broken off. It will reduce bulb size by 30% if allowed to grow. 

"If the flower stalk is allowed to grow, the aerial bulbils that develop on some varieties can be used as planting stock that will produce marketable size bulbs in two to three years." (source: NC Cooperative Extension, Garlic Production)
Harvest Time
Garlic is best harvested when the ground is dry and not too wet. It stores better when dry.

Garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves turn yellow and dry, normally in early summer. Carefully dig up a sample bulb to see when garlic is ready to harvest. 

"Elephant garlic is ready to harvest in mid-May to mid-June and must be harvested when about 30% of the foliage is starting to yellow." (source:  NC Cooperative Extension, Garlic Production)

Cure garlic bulbs in a warm shady place. Garlic can be braided and hung. It can also be stored with the leafy tops cut off in a mesh bag.

Never store garlic in containers or plastic bags.


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