Garlic is a crop that is fun to grow and does best when planted in the fall. There are many interesting varieties, so take your time choosing a variety that suits your taste and cooking preferences.
When to Plant Garlic
Garlic grows best in the Pikes Peak Region when planted in the fall – typically in late October – when the soil temperatures are too cool to cause the garlic to sprout but still warm enough to allow the bulb to establish some roots before going dormant for the winter.
Choosing a Garlic Variety to Plant
There are two main subspecies of garlic: hardneck and softneck.
Hardneck varieties are most similar to wild garlic and also produce a delicious flowering stalk, known as a scape, that can be eaten raw or cooked. Hardneck varieties tend to be more flavorful, have larger cloves, and are easier to peel. Hardneck varieties may be purple, purple striped or white. Each cultivar has a distinctive flavor ranging from mild to very hot.
Softneck varieties do not produce a flowering stalk, but they can be braided. These varieties typically produce bulbs with 10 to 40 smaller cloves. Softnecks have a longer shelf life than the hardneck varieties, making them popular with grocery stores.
Garlic is best grown in a well-drained soil as it won’t tolerate wet feet. Garlic thrives in soil that is high in organic matter, so a raised bed is an ideal location for growing it. Be sure to amend the soil with well-rotted manure or preferably a quality compost. If possible, spread 1 to 2 inches of compost over the entire planting area and work it into the first few inches of soil. As with most garden crops, garlic grows best when the soil pH is between 6 and 7. If you amend the soil with manure or compost before planting, no further fertilizer is needed until spring. Garlic should not be planted in the same spot year to year; the crop should be rotated.
How to Plant, Harvest & Store Garlic
- Garlic cloves are best planted between November and April, although you will generally get a bigger and better crop if you plant in the autumn. If planted between October 1 and November 15, the clove will have a chance to develop some roots before it goes dormant for the winter. Here at Rick’s, we think the ideal time to plant is at the end of October.
- Separate cloves from the bulb and plant root side down (pointed side up) about 2-4 inches deep, 6-8 inches apart in the row and 12-18 inches between rows. A bulb planter used for tulips and daffodils is an excellent tool to get several cloves planted quickly.
- Mulching 6-12 inches of straw or mulch in mid to late November, when the ground begins to freeze, will ensure the garlic will survive the cold temperatures.
- In early spring as the ground thaws, look for the green tips beginning to emerge underneath the you mulch.
- Fertilize in spring with a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 (3 lb per 100 sq. feet), or an organic complete fertilizer at roughly twice the rate, as usually they contain roughly half the nitrogen as chemical fertilizers.
- As half of the leaves begin to die-back in July, harvest the garlic by gently pulling on the stalk while prying beneath the bulb with a trowel. The clove you planted last fall will have turned into a multi-cloved bulb. Gently shake off the dirt but do not wash before storage. Don’t wait until all the leaves have died-back or your bulbs will not store well.
- Cure the garlic by hanging in a warm, dry, well ventilated place.
- Give the bulbs another shake after two weeks of curing to remove more soil, cut off the stalks of hardneck varieties and store them in a cool, dry place. For softneck varieties, you can leave the stalks attached if you wish to braid and hang them for ease of use and aesthetics in the kitchen – but you may also cut off the stalks and store them with the hardneck varieties.
- Save some of your biggest bulbs for planting next fall.
Varieties Available at Rick’s for Fall 2020 Planting
All of our seed garlic is locally grown in Avondale, CO and is certified organic.
Metechi garlic is a hardneck with a robust flavor and sharp bite. One of the hottest garlics raw, cooking tones down heat while keeping tons of flavor. One of the best garlics for roasting. Easy to peel, long-storing.
Peñasco Blue garlic is an heirloom rocambole hardneck variety, mild but rich flavored. This garlic has been grown for generations in the higher elevations of Taos County, NM. Ideal for eating raw, pressed into salads or pestos. Skins are deep purple to deep brown, and external skins usually have quite a bit of pink streaking. Mid-season harvest.
Pueblo Early garlic is an artichoke variety softneck derived from California Early. Medium tame flavor, very large heads, good all-purpose garlic. Very adaptable. Stores until spring under cool, dry storage conditions.
Inchelium Red garlic is a softneck artichoke variety, once the softneck variety winner for best flavor. Mild buttery flavor at harvest, flavor increases with storage to mild heat. Properly cured, may store up to 10 months..
Silverwhite garlic is a softneck variety, typically the last to mature each season and stores the longest. Richly garlic flavor. High yields of large, mild-flavored bulbs. Popular softneck in grocery stores and for braiding.