Thursday, September 15, 2011

Homegrown Garlic- Pine Mountain, Kathleen Powers

After 22 years I feel that I can now say that I know what truly good garlic is, and being a garlic enthusiast (I put it in everything I cook) this is probably a step in the right direction. Before arriving at Pine Mountain last month I bought all my garlic at the grocery store, and I was content doing so because I thought that all garlic was the same and made just about every food taste better (which is still true). However when I tasted the garlic that my housemate Maggie grew this past year, I was blown away, all garlic is not the same! Compared to what I was buying at the store Maggie’s large bulbs of garlic are fresh, crisp, tasty, and just 10x better all around. Thankfully it turns out that garlic is not at all hard to grow, and fall is the time to order your seed garlic and start planting!

Guide to Growing garlic

Plant garlic by Halloween and harvest by the 4th of July

Soil – Garlic likes slightly acidic, well-cultivated soils with plenty of 
organic matter (compost). Separate bulbs into cloves and plant within
 5-7 days so they don’t dry out. Garlic roots do best when planted
 before the ground freezes to allow for root establishment prior to wintery
 cold temperatures - the ideal soil temperature for planting garlic is 60 degrees.

Planting • Mulch • Water – Plant garlic cloves 2” deep
 (blunt end down) and 4”- 6” apart with 12”- 15” between rows. Mulch garlic with straw or leaves to conserve water, protect young bulbs through winter, and deter spring weeds. Shoots
 will push through the mulch in spring. In summer, pull mulch away from the bulbs. Garlic needs to receive ample amounts of
 water throughout spring and summer, and 
should be kept weed-free.
Harvest • Storage – When the garlic leaves begin to 
turn yellow (late June and into July), stop watering for
 2 weeks and then harvest the bulbs. Make braids or 
bundles of 6-10 bulbs and hang in a dry, shady place to cure
 for 3-4 weeks before storing. Store garlic in a cool, dry, 
well-ventilated place in well-ventilated containers such as mesh bags. Storage life varies from 4 -6 months for hardneck varieties
 and up to 10 months for softnecks.

Garlic Powder: An easy and more dependable
 way to store your garlic is in the form of garlic powder. After letting
 the freshly harvested garlic dry for a few weeks, peel
 the cloves and either: roast the garlic for ½ hour in a 
350° oven and after cooling, place in a kitchen blender or 
food processor, and then dehydrate the paste in the oven or
 dehydrator. Or, dehydrate the peeled cloves and blend them 
once dried. Place the garlic powder in a good glass jar and store 
with your other spices.

Hardneck or Softneck?        
Softneck Garlic is the most common type of garlic. Almost all supermarket garlic is a softneck variety because it is easier to grow and harvest mechanically and keeps longer than hardneck. Softnecks are recognized by the white papery skin and an abundance of cloves, forming several layers around the central core. The flexible stalks of softnecks allow them to be braided into decorative plaits to hang and store. Softneck garlic is a little easier to grow in warm climates like the Southeast.

Hardneck Garlic, also called seedstem or top setting garlic, shoots up a stem or scape in late spring which coils from the top and grows a number of bubils. These are often called flowers although they are not. Cultivated garlic is sterile – the plants are technically clones. If the scape and bubils are left in place, the plant will use energy to grow them that could be better used to grow the bulb. So clip the stem off early for best results.

Hardneck garlic has fewer but larger cloves than softneck. Most people prefer the taste of hardneck, but they don’t store well as their outer protective bulb wrapper is especially thin.

How Much Seed Garlic do I Need?
First, figure out how many bulbs or pounds of garlic you would like to harvest. On average, one pound of seed garlic will plant 20-25 row feet of garlic when planted with 6 between cloves.

Each pound of hardneck seed garlic has about 35-50 cloves. As each clove grows into its’ own plant and bulb of garlic, each pound will yield 35-50 garlic bulbs (approximately 4-7 pounds).

Each pound of softneck garlic seed has about 50-70 cloves, as softnecks have more cloves per bulb than hardnecks. This will yield 50-70 garlic bulbs (approximately 6-10 pounds).

This guide provided by Sow True Seed, 146 Church Street Asheville, NC. 28801
For more information visit their website at
Or their blog at

I know that I will be planting my own garlic this fall, and I hope you will all join me in improving your cooking, by growing your own garlic!

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