When it comes to growing your own food, planting ingredients you often use in your everyday cooking makes the most sense. Garlic tastes amazing and is a wonderful addition to many meals, for us garlic is one of those ingredients we often use.
Growing garlic is an easy process but requires patience, as it can take several months for it to mature and be ready for harvest.
Why Grow Garlic
Garlic is widely used as a key ingredient in many recipes and is also proven to have many health benefits and uses.
Growing your own garlic is very economical. At our local farmers market, we purchase approximately eight organic bulbs for CAD$4.00. Each bulb has approximately 10 cloves and we dug 76 holes to fill the raised bed, this will hopefully provide 76 bulbs and produce an abundant amount of garlic for my family.
The Best Time To Plant Garlic In Ontario
In Ontario, it is recommended to plant garlic in the fall, with the ideal time being between late September and mid-October. Specifically when the nights are cooler, just as long as it’s a few weeks before the first frost.
Garlic is a perennial plant that requires a period of cold weather to initiate growth. The low temperatures will allow the roots of the garlic to begin to develop and then they’ll stop growth and root development over winter. Garlic is hardy so can be left alone all winter and will continue to grow in spring with warmer soil and air temperatures.
Also note that although planting in the fall is what’s recommended, it is still possible to plant garlic in the spring. As fall is the ideal time to plant, we decided to plant garlic near the end of October.
Types Of Garlic
All varieties (and there are hundreds) of garlic can be categorized into two main groups; hardneck and softneck.
Hardneck varieties are better suited to cold areas, so this is a good choice if you live where winters are harsh. It grows one ring of cloves around a hard stem, there are not multiple layers of cloves as there are in softneck varieties. This variety of garlic can produce anywhere from 4-12 cloves per bulb. Hardneck varieties are more winter hardy, produce larger cloves but have a shorter storage life than softneck varieties.
Softneck varieties, like their name suggests, have stems that stay soft. Softnecks are especially recommended for those in warmer climates.
There is a difference in taste between the two varieties: hardneck garlic has a milder flavour than softnecks.
Where To Plant Garlic
When choosing the location of where you will plant your garlic, it is important to select an area that gets 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day. There is one area on our property that gets full sun, this is the area where we built our vegetable garden and we knew this would also need to be the location to plant garlic.
We had the option to plant in a raised bed, cloth pot, or directly in the ground. Garlic is grown best in the ground or in raised beds, so we decided this time that a raised bed would be perfect. So although we recently pulled everything out of our raised beds to prepare for winter and the next growing season, we selected one of our 6×2.5ft beds to grow garlic. Raised beds are good for drainage and it is important to pick somewhere with good drainage as that will help to make sure that the cloves don’t rot when left in the ground over the winter.
How To Plant Garlic
- Step 1: Get garlic, we opted for organic garlic that we purchased from the local farmer’s market as we know this specific variety grows well in our area.
- Step 2: Just prior to planting break the bulbs apart into cloves. Do not skin the cloves and choose cloves where the tight wrapper is completely intact.
*It is important to choose the best garlic to plant. Select large and healthy cloves, this will help to produce bigger and healthier bulbs when you harvest the following summer.
- Step 3: Loosen the top layer of soil and remove any weeds. It’s important to keep the area clean from weeds as garlic does not do well with competition, it requires all available nutrients!
- Step 4: Mix in healthy additions of compost to prepare for planting.
- Step 5: Use a stick to make holes (4-6”) apart – in our case 76 holes. We used a diagonal planting pattern to increase the number of bulbs we could plant in the available space.
- Step 6: Place the garlic cloves into the holes, with the tip being 1″ to 2 ” just below the surface of the ground.
*Ensure that the wide root side is facing down and the pointed end is facing up.
- Step 7: Cover the holes with soil, pressing down slightly.
- Step 8: Cover the bed to provide protection from the winter elements (we used leaves as this is what is readily available to us).
*This will help protect the garlic from freezing and thawing, and will also keep the soil warmer to allow the roots to continue to grow into early winter.
After Planting Care
Garlic is a low-maintenance crop and is very easy to look after once planted. If there is a dry spell you can water, and keep the weeds out which shouldn’t be an issue until spring as long as you cleared the area prior to planting. You can pretty much leave it alone until they are ready to be harvested.
Garlic planted in fall will be ready to be harvested in late spring or mid-summer, between July to September. The bulbs will be at their best when the lower two-thirds of leaves have dried up and turned brown. Stay tuned to the summer harvest when I will post our results!