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[ What Really is Garlic, Anyway? ] - [ Overview of Growing Garlic ] - [Organic Growing vs. Chemicals ] - [ What's Really in Your Fertilizer? ] - [ Preparing the soil ] -
[ Preparing and Planting the Garlic ] - [ Tending the Garlic ] - [ How to Know When to Harvest the Garlic ] - [ How to cure the Garlic ] - [ How to Store the Garlic ] -
[ Alphabetical listing of gourmet garlics ]
- [ Milder Garlics ] - [ Medium Flavored Garlics ] - [ Stronger Tasting Garlics ]
We are now accepting orders for gourmet garlic for late summer/early fall shipment.
- [ Scapes in the Spring - Order now for spring 2013 shipment. ]
We now include an online garlic farmers market where you buy direct
- Pictures of our Fabulous wildflowers this spring. -
What Really is Garlic, anyway?
Garlic (Allium sativum L.) may be the oldest cultivated plant by humans and is of the same general plant family as lillies and onions and leeks. More than botanical designations, garlic is a lifeform, that is, a living being that continues to remain alive by dividing or cloning itself into many miniature versions of itself and basically consumes its old self in the process of becoming its new selves.
The heart and soul, as it were, of the garlic is the so-called true stem, or basal plate from which the roots extend downward and the leaves, cloves and false stalk (properly called scape) emerge and reach upward seeking light and air, for it is the sun and air that power the water pump that is a garlic plant. It is from this true stem that the mother clove gives her life to all her daughter cloves, passing her very essence on directly to them.
Garlic grows by dissolving nutrients and drawing the nutrient laden moisture into its roots and drawing it up to the true stem where it is used to build various parts of the plant. The whole time, the tiny central heart of the plant is growing like a nautilus in its chambered shell, for its growth pattern is a spiral, with new growth forming at the center and maturing as the new little cloves work their way around and out from their birthplace at the the center, growing ever larger as they dance round the center in celebration of their lives as if honoring their giver of life as they take their first steps in their trip through life. What else could it be?
Garlic is undeniably a living entity that responds to its environment.
As diners, we justify our wholesale slaughter of our defenseless little brethren by agreeing to preserve their species by becoming growers and thereby allowing the garlic species
not only to carry on their kind, but promising to let them live in sumptuous quarters,
free from interference by weeds on the condition that they have plenty of kids we can eat.
Garlic is undeniably a living entity that responds to its environment. As diners, we justify our wholesale slaughter of our defenseless little brethren by agreeing to preserve their species by becoming growers and thereby allowing the garlic species not only to carry on their kind, but promising to let them live in sumptuous quarters, free from interference by weeds on the condition that they have plenty of kids we can eat.
Sunlight and atmospheric gasses provide energy to power the process and as sunlight increases with the day-length in spring, the pump works harder and harder until the intensity of the sun causes it to burn out and the plant withdraws all its liquid resources back down into the rapidly forming cloves and it withdraws to the cool underground to wait until fall so it can begin the process of growing again, this time in multiplex with all cloves dreaming of the day when they, too would become whole bulbs all by themselves.
Overview of Growing Gourmet Garlic
Garlic is fairly easy to grow. Great garlic is fairly difficult to grow. If you just want to grow garlic, put the separated cloves in the ground anytime between September and March and it will probably grow, but not very well. If you want to grow large, healthy bulbs, there's much more to it than that.
This section is meant for the backyard gardener and is not meant for those who want to grow large quantities of garlic for commercial purposes, I recommend Ron Engeland's book Growing Great Garlic. It's the book that got us started. To Buy the Book, Click Here.
First, consider your location, climate and soil conditions and then determine the kinds of garlic which grow best in your area.
Let's talk about location and climate first. While garlic originated in central Asia with its long cold winters, damp cool springs and warm, dry summers, it has been transported around the globe
and grown in so many areas that its needs seem to have changed a little. Some varieties, such as Rocamboles, still want those conditions in order to thrive.
Porcelains, Purple Stripes and Silverskins are more tolerant, but still won't stand for a hot, dry spring. Artichokes will do well almost anywhere. For a detailed
description of these five basic varieties, please read our Overview of Garlic section where we explain the differences between them.
Don't be afraid to experiment. A wonderful and wizened master herbalist, Odena Brannam, told us when we first started that she had grown things all her life in places the experts said they would not grow.
She had accomplished the impossible many times because she did not know it could not be done.
Organic Growing Versus Chemicals
Soil conditions and watering are of utmost importance if you want to grow excellent, large healthy garlic. Garlic will grow (barely) in almost any dirt with whatever water is available to it but will thrive in healthy soil with proper watering. If you do not grow organically, you cannot grow garlic as good as those who do. That is a simple fact of nature. Chemical manufacturers may tell you otherwise, but they stand to make a lot of money from you if you grow as they say, whereas I stand to make no money off of you if you grow as I suggest-just a slightly less polluted planet. You figure out who is more likely to be honest with you.
Chemical growers feed the plants at the expense of the soil-and a lot of money. Organic growers feed the soil to the benefit of the plants-for very little money. If you build up your soil with manures and compost and a few trace minerals, your soil will stay healthy for years with a minimum of additions but when you use chemicals, you must add them on an on-going basis if your soil is to grow anything. The reason for this is that the soil is an ecosystem that contains millions of microscopic plant and animal lifeforms that live off one another just like in the jungle or the sea. When the soil is in balance in this way, the plants that grow in it can pull what they need out of it and thrive. Plants need much more than just Nitrogen, Potassium and Phosphorous, they need the wide variety of micronutrients and minerals that healthy, well balanced soil provides. When you add high concentrations of NPK fertilizers, this imbalance kills off vast numbers of these microorganisms and the plants feed on their decaying bodies which gives you a good crop this year, but results in a less naturally fertile soil with far fewer microbes and you have to keep adding more of the fertilizers in subsequent years just to grow a plant that is inferior to a plant grown organically.
When you use chemical insecticides and herbicides, they kill not only the surface pests you aim to kill, but also soak into the ground and kill many of the microorganisms living in the soil as well, resulting in a less fertile growing environment yet. They can also leach into your community drinking water, too. Do you really want to drink pesticide-laden water? Pesticide residues in our drinking water are not neutralized by adding chlorine or flouride to the water as they are not organic lifeforms but inorganic chemicals that can contribute to many human ailments. Some of the highest cancer rates are among people who apply pesticides and who work with the plants that have had pesticides applied, according to insurance industry statistics. That stuff soaks into the plants and cannot be washed off because it is inside them. If the government requires applicators to wear "protective" clothing, boots, gloves, hoods and masks to apply it, why would you want to eat it?
What's Really in Your Fertilizer?
Until recently I thought that NPK fertilizers weren't so bad; after all, it was the pesticides that were the real problem, right? I now see I was wrong and that many commercial fertilizers are as bad and some are worse than pesticides and are actually hazardous to your health. Fertilizers have been required to have their claimed amounts of Nitrogen, Phosphate and Potassium, but the other "inert" ingredients weren't regulated so any hazardous waste that contained any amounts of any form of N, P or K could be sold as fertilizer, regardless of what the undisclosed ingredients were.
A few years ago at the Garlic is Life! Symposium in Tulsa I met the former mayor of a small town in Washington and listened to her story. Patty Martin and some of her constituents discovered that some large industrial companies were disposing of hazardous wastes, including dioxins, lead, mercury, and even some radioactive material by putting it into fertilizer or selling it to companies that did. She was rightfully concerned for the welfare of her own family as well as all the town's other people and rattled enough people's cages to spur an investigation by investigative reporter, Buff Wilson of the Seattle Times newspaper. The story attracted nationwide attention and was nominated for a Pulitzer prize. It resulted in the state of Washington passing and implementing a law regulating the content of fertilizers and requiring fertilizer manufacturers to label the contents. They also tested all fertilizers sold in Washington and have published the list of ingredients on the internet - good move!
By avoiding the EPA's expensive hazardous waste disposal sites and selling their wastes to fertilizer manufacturers, some industrial companies have turned otherwise costly hazardous waste into a profitable product. Slick, huh? To learn more about what's in your fertilizer, Click Here.
In view of the above, I cannot in good conscience recommend using commercial pelleted fertilizers in growing garlic - which is good because research shows that standard NPK fertilizers really don't do much for garlic, anyway, as it's the minerals/micronutrients that garlic seeks. After all, garlic originated in the thin, rocky mountainous soils of the area just north of modern Afghanistan.
Follow our organic growing links for much more detailed information about growing organically and get into it. Prepare your soil a few months in advance so that it is in good balance when you plant. We recommend you have your soil tested for more than NPK and pH, but for micronutrient analysis also so that you will know what your soil lacks and what it has enough or too much of. That way you will know what and how much to add. Too much of anything can be bad, it is balance that is important.
Certified Organic vs. Certified Naturally Grown, etc., does it matter?
The organic movement rose from small farmers and gardeners using traditional agricultural methods and building on them to produce naturally grown food that people liked better than conventional food in stores and were willing to pay extra for that food. Some unscruplous large growers noticed and then falsely claimed their produce was organically grown when it wasn't and got higher prices for conventionally grown food. It was decided some standards and licensing was necessary and the National Organic Program (NOP) came into existence and established requirements and compliance verification. If a small family farm cares enough to become Certified Organic and go through all the things necessary to remain certified, you can be assured their produce is worth having and I highly recommend Certified Organic growers.
If a grower is going to sell to distributors who in turn sell to stores and commercial food businesses where the grower doesn't have any direct interaction with the consumer then Certified Organic is the best way to go due to public acceptance of the label. People trust the Certified Organic label because of the strong verification procedures of the USDA. It's hard to trust big businesses so you have to verify to be sure they're not cheating.
As the large agribusiness corporations began to weild more influence over the NOP than the small growers who started the organic revolution, the initial rules have been watered down in favor of corporate interests and at the same time bureacratic requirements have served to exclude many of those small growers who simply don't have time for all the paperwork and accounting requirements or just don't want the government looking over their shoulder all the time.
Many of the small-scale growers have banded together and formed groups to provide alternative certification standards that go back to the original intent of the NOP. These people live the organic lifestyle and are providing alternative certifications of sustainability and one of them is Certified Naturally Grown (CNG). CNG knows that when people see growers living the organic lifestyle they are more likely to trust those growers not to use chemical fertilizers and harmful pesticides. People trust sustainable gardeners because they know they can.
CNG members adhere to the strict standards of the original NOP but without the high costs and bureacracy of the USDA-administered program. When you look at the kinds of people who who join CNG, what you see are people who live their lives sustainably and who want the sustainability of their produce vouched for by people for whom they have respect, i.e., their peers. One look at these people's lifestyles and you just know they wouls never even consider using toxic petrochemicals.
I have chosen Certified Naturally Grown to recommend to
most gardeners who want to market their produce at the grass roots level where they sell direct to their customers.
I am in full agreement with their principles and their ways of compliance verification by peers and their viewpoint that
actually growing sustainably is more important than reams of bureacratic paperwork and large fees.
However, if you're a market gardener who sells at the grass roots level and you sell direct to chefs and local grocery stores or through a farmers market or internet webpage where buyer and seller deal directly with each other and some level of confidence needs to exist, the Certified Naturally Grown designation delivers that trust.
Preparing the Ground for Planting
If you are going to be successful planting something to grow food for you for this year and have it provide seeds for next year, you must first give it a good home so it will grow well for you. This is not easy and usually involves more than a little work preparing the ground, either with shovel and garden fork or a tiller of some kind since garlic needs beds at least 6" deep. Garlic likes the soil to be loosened up down to about six inches or more and to remain loose so that it feeds and waters well and its roots do not get needlessly torn up when harvesting - it's best to minimize any physical damaagge during harvesting as nicks, cuts, broken roots, etc. provide pathogens a place of entry to contaminate the garlic.
You may not need to make raised beds if your garden soil is sandy loam or a sandy soil enriched with lots of organic matter and it is loose enough deep enough to be well drained and for root crops to be easily pulled out without damage.
When we lived in town and had only a small 12X24' garden I used a shovel, garden fork, rake and hoe to do all the work but when we moved to the country and had a garden almost the size of a football field, a tiller was a must. Merridee's family had a big heavy Troy-Built that churned up the soil pretty good and could build a bed fast although it would jerk you around and rattle you pretty good when it hit a hard spot. A big tiller is an indispensible tool for a large garden and I wouldn't part with the Troy-Built but it quickly became obvious that we needed a smaller more more maneuverable and easier to manage tiller for the smaller jobs within the garden and it had to be light enough for Merridee to carry and use. We looked at the alternatives and bought a Mantis tiller in 1994 and used it to till smaller beds and weed between beds because it was lightweight and maneuverable and saved backbreaking hours in the hot sun with a shovel, scuffle hoe or 4-tine hand cultivator.
I don't even pretend to be any kind of expert on gardening but I have gardened by the seat of my pants for 35 years and have made a lot of mistakes but seem to have overcome most of them and have grown some pretty good garlic the last 15 years. I have developed methods which have worked well for me here in west central Texas and that's all I can discuss from personal experience but I hear a lot from northern growers and I repeat what the more successful ones say.
We live near a creek and our garden soil is all fine silt, which in the absense of organic matter, compacts. I till and build and fertilize raised beds three months before I intend to plant garlic.
I then mulch them with thick layer of hay/straw/alfalfa, grass clippings, etc. and hand water heavily, enough to mat down and thatch together the mulch cover and let it intertwine so it doesn't blow away.
Then I let it set untouched until time to plant so that the microbial life in the soil can do its thing and produce a living fertile bed with a chocolate cake-like texture.
In Texas, bare ground gets baked by the sun and dehydrates the area around it but a cover crop or organic mulch holds the moisture in and maintains plant health.
When it is time to plant I rake back the mulch, plant the bed with the garlics planted 6" apart, run and anchor the irrigation tapes (two to a bed) and rake back the mulch and add to it and then water to saturation to matt the mulch .
Thereafter when it is time to water I irrigate with creek water through the drip tapes.
Building the beds is the hard part because there is a lot of hard labor involved.
When it is time to plant I rake back the mulch, plant the bed with the garlics planted 6" apart, run and anchor the irrigation tapes (two to a bed) and rake back the mulch and add to it and then water to saturation to matt the mulch . Thereafter when it is time to water I irrigate with creek water through the drip tapes.
Building the beds is the hard part because there is a lot of hard labor involved.
Planting and Growing Gourmet Garlic
It's usually best to plant garlic in the fall as close to the autumnal equinox as possible. Garlic likes to sprout roots in the fall and feed and develop for a little while before the cold winter temperatures force it to curtail its growth and rest until the warmer weather comes. It uses this time to establish its root system so it can survive the winter and be ready to explode with growth in the spring before the weather turns hot. Hot weather forces garlic to bolt; that is, to mature, to try to go to seed, as it were. But since garlic does not produce seed, it reproduces by forming as many cloves as its genetics allow and growing them as big as it can before the summer heat kills the leaves.
If you leave that multi-cloved bulb in the ground, it will wait until fall and every one of those cloves will try to send up its own leaves and they will all try to grow in the same spot, resulting in a large number of very small garlics the following spring. That is why it is necessary to pull the bulb out of the ground when it matures and store it in a cool, dry place until the fall. In the fall, separate the bulbs into cloves, being careful not to bruise or damage the cloves, and plant the cloves, top side up, six to eight inches apart so they will have room to grow and not fight over the limited resources of a small area.
Commercial growers in California and other places usually plant the cloves really close to one another and when mature the bulbs are not only touching, but crowding each other in heavily chemically-fertilized fields. These fields are also treated with toxic fungicides to try to fight soil-borne fungi that are too firmly entrenched from 75 years of growing almost nothing but garlic. On the other hand, if you grow garlic in a three to seven year rotation with other crops, Mother Nature will sweeten the soil for you and drop the level of fungi below the level at which it is a problem - and grow a better tasting and better looking and healthier plant as well. The wholesome outdoor exercise of gourmet garlic gardening contributes to your all-around good health and well being and costs less than the spiraling cost of agricultural chemicals. It's your choice.
In most parts of the country, garlic likes to be planted in fertile, well drained raised beds so that the bulb itself is up out of the water level and the roots are down in the water. The height of the raised beds and the depth to plant the cloves (root end down) depend on in what part of the country you want to grow the garlic. If your area gets a lot of rain and snow and very cold winters, then use higher beds and plant the cloves four inches deep and mulch heavily to protect the garlic from sub-zero temperatures. If you grow in more arid areas with warmer winters and less snow, then lower the beds and don't plant the garlic so deep. Garlic will grow in flat ground without raised beds, but the raised beds help the garlic fend off diseases that can come when the bulb sits in water too long.
About the Mantis Tiller/Cultivator
I have been a very happy Mantis user for the past 15 years, since 1994. I bought it because I was leery of small gasoline engines but their ad said they would send me a video to teach me all about it and I could return it if I didn't like it. The video showed me everything I needed to know about how to take care of it and use it. It never once failed to start quickly and easily, I was amazed. I have never known an easier starting or more reliable small gasoline engine anywhere and I'm still a skeptic of small gasoline engines but I know I can always rely on my Mantis.
I like it because it can zip around and in-between places where a big tiller wouldn't work well. It only weighs 20 pounds so it's easy to carry if you want to but you don't have to because when it is running you can give it a little gas and it will "walk" on its slowly spinning tines and you simply guide it where you want it to take itself. Neat, huh?
It works differently than other tillers in that you walk backwards and pull the tiller as you go and it chews up the ground as you go, the longer it stays in one place the deeper it digs in. This way you don't walk on the freshly tilled soil, compacting it. There are also some accessories available like a sidewalk edger attachment and a trenching attachment and even a hiller.
After my first Mantis mysteriously disappeared I bought another one and this time I paid extra and got the 24 pound Honda 4-cycle engine and it works every bit as good as the 2-cycle model and I enjoy its quietness of operation and the fact that you don't have to mix the gas and oil.
I don't recommend anything I wouldn't use myself and I can whole-heartedly recommend the Mantis tiller-cultiver because we have used it for 15 years and I know it not only works well, it lasts. Merridee has no problem starting and using it herself.
Preparing the Garlic for Planting and Planting the Garlic
Garlic is subject to fungal diseases and pest infestations that can be virtually undetectable until they strike. Prevention is the best way to deal with them. In our experience, garlic that is soaked in certain solutions and with the clove covers peeled off have a better chance of growing free of pathogen or pest.
When your soil is fully ready to be planted, take the bulbs you want to plant and break them apart into their individual cloves (Being sure to keep each variety separate from others. Soak each varieties' cloves in water containing one heaping tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and liquid seaweed per gallon to protect them from fungus as well as give them an energy boost. Leave the cloves in the soda water overnight or long enough for the clove covers to loosen so the liquid comes into contact with the surfaces of the cloves. Garlics clove covers can contain fungal spores, or conidia or the eggs of pests such as mites and are best discarded rather than planted since the first thing the cloves do is to shed them, anyway. The baking soda helps neutralize the fungi. Commercial growers don't have time to peel cloves bare but gardeners do. Peeling the cloves has another advantage in that you can see if they have any problems and if they do, discard them and plant only the best cloves in order to harvest the best garlic. If you can't see what the cloves really look like it is easy to plant bad cloves thinking they are good and wind up with a bad harvest the following year.
The cloves should then be soaked in rubbing alcohol or 100 proof vodka for three or four minutes and then planted immediately. The alcohol kills pests and pest eggs and any pathogens the first soaking missed. Every time I have done this, the treated garlic turned out better than the untreated control group. Alcohols are on the National Organic Program accepted list and baking soda is accepted under part 205.605.
Here in central Texas, we plant about 2 to 3 inches deep, with larger varieties going a little deeper in the ground than the smaller varieties. We put them in by hand so we can be sure each clove is properly bedded down. It's a lot of work on our hands and knees, but it's the best way to get the best results. Garlic does not lend itself well to automated planting technology due to the irregular size and shape differences in the cloves. Our beds are 6 in. high and 24 in. wide, we drip irrigate with T-Tapes and cover all with a 3 inch deep mulch to protect from weeds and to hold in the soil moisture, more to act as a barrier to direct sunlight on the soil than for temperature protection. Garlic survives cold quite well as it was designed by nature to grow in the fall, rest in the winter and bulb out in the late spring or early to mid-summer.
Across the northern tier of states garlics leaves do not usually emerge from the ground until spring, although in a warm winter, they will emerge an grow in the winter just as they do in the South or in California. Garlic loves the cold weather but it can be frozen out if the temp drops 10 or 20 below zero-F and stays there for a couple of weeks, but it is rare. During those times when we actually get snow down here, it's a beautiful sight to see all those lush deep green spearlike leaves shooting up abruptly out out of the stark white snow. When you walk out to make sure they're OK, you can almost hear them laughing and frolicking in the snow and singing their song of joy. The garlics allow the grower to join the party, but no one else - it's a private family affair.
Tending the Growing Garlic
Garlic is naturally very resourceful and will find a way to get what it needs out of the soil it grows in. You don't need a lot of NPK, just a good well balanced soil that is loose enough for the bulb to grow and expand when it is the time for it to do so. Ordinary garden soil with a little manure added a couple of months before planting is great. It doesn't much care for dry, hard packed clayey or thin rocky soils that may restrict its expansion, oh, it will still grow, it just won't get as big. It may; however, have a more intense flavor and store a little longer than the big beautiful ones. Like its cousins, the onions, garlic doesn't like to dry out completely during its growing season as that tends to make it stronger in flavor. A good thing to remember if you like strong garlic.
Professional growers know that size is what sells in this country, no matter what they grow. In a supermarket, most people will buy a larger fruit or garlic rather than a small one and would be surprised to learn that the small one might even taste better. Size in a garlic is determined first by the variety and then by the growing conditions. Some varieties are naturally larger than others - please see our section on Varieties of Garlic for an explanation. After varietal type, the next consideration is soil fertility and the amount and frequency of watering, mostly the watering.
Some growers recommend fertilizing garlic in the early spring to give it a boost just as the foilage gets a good start but before the plant begins to form a bulb, and I think that's usually a good idea. Others say that if your soil is naturally fertile enough you don't even have to fertilize at all during the growing season. If you're not going to do a spring fertilization, we think a foliar spray with a tablespoon each of seaweed, molasses and baking soda in a gallon of water two or three times during the spring helps the garlic finish out its growth, nicely - but do not foliar feed it within a month of harvest. It is a good idea to make sure the garlic is not real dry when you spray as that may not be beneficial to the plants. Foliar spraying should only be done on healthy, well watered plants. Garlic will build a good stand of lush foilage before it begins to swell at its base and form a bulb. Discontinue all fertilization at the first sign of the bulb beginning to swell. If you continue to fertilize beyond the bulbing point, especially with nitrogen, it can cause the leaves to become extra lush at the expense of bulb size.
Garlic likes a slightly moist but not wet soil. If the moisture content of the soil at the root level is below 50%, it is time to water the garlic. If it stays too wet, diseases such as fungus and blight can set in and moist conditions also favor nematodes. Few things in nature prey upon garlic as garlic kills or repels most insects, fungi and other things that are problems for most other plants, but the things that bother garlic don't seem to bother much else (except grasshoppers). Garlic needs to be protected from those diseases by giving it the growing conditions it likes and avoiding those conditions that lead to problems.
Overwatering garlic can lead to some of those problems as can underwatering because any plant that becomes stressed is more likely to develop problems than a plant that is not stressed. If it gets too dry, water it; if it gets too wet and stays that way for a bit too long, pull back some of the mulch and let the soil dry out some before replacing the mulch. One way to determine the moisture content is to stick your hand down into the root zone feel the soil. If your hand comes out dry, it's time to water; If it is muddy and sticks to your hand, it's too wet. If it stays that way for too long, pull back the mulch and let the ground dry out a bit. Do not water during the last week or two before harvesting your garlic as it is easier to pull or dig garlic out of fairly dry soil than mud, and the garlic will store better.
How to Know Exactly When to Harvest Each Garlic Bulb
How do you know when it is time to harvest the garlic? There is no pat answer as it varies depending on what part of the country you grow in and the variety of garlic involved. Different varieties harvest at different times as Asiatics and Turbans mature first, followed by Artichokes, Creoles, Rocamboles, Purple Stripes and Porcelains and, finally Silverskins. Since spring warms up from the South to the North, southern growers will harvest earlier than Northern growers. It also seems to depend on the weather; how soon it warms up to what extent. If high temperatures come early in spring and it stays warm to hot, harvest will be earlier than usual because it is the heat and sun that causes garlic to bolt. A long cool spring will delay harvest until after the usual time as the bulbs will mature slower and maturing is delayed. We usually start harvesting in mid-May or so whereas far northern growers may not begin until July or later.
Hardneck garlics will send up a stalk, or scape as it is properly called, a few weeks before harvest time. Some growers prefer to cut off the scape and some prefer to leave it on. There is widespread disagreement among growers about when or whether to cut the scape. Some say if you cut the scape it will make the bulb larger. Some say if you don't cut the scape the garlic will store longer and better-and make better seedstock. Some say you must cut off the scape at just the right time to get the right balance of size and storability or hardiness of the bulb. Some say if you cut off the scape too soon you will get big bulbs but that they are more susceptable to disease and short storability (just eat them first.) I suggest you experiment and see what works best for you in your situation. Most serious growers I know do cut the scapes while they are still tender and either eat them or sell them to gourmets - they're highly prized for their delicate flavor and they're only available for a short time in the spring.
Softneck garlics don't usually send up scapes but sometimes Silverskins do when stressed by adverse growing conditions. The Artichoke garlics form bulbils in the neck area just above the cloves. The Asiatic and Turban groups of garlics are classified as weakly bolting hardnecks usually send up scapes but not all. They're both very early ripeners and need to be checked for readiness to harvest as soon as the lower leaves start to die down, don't wait for the last six leaves or they will be overripe - they're unique in that regard. Dig down and look at the bulbs to verify if they are big enough. The Creole garlics also often send up scapes. All Creole scapes form an inverted "U" pattern - at least all that I have ever seen, as do Asiatic and Turban scapes.
The real secret to knowing when to harvest the garlic is to watch the leaves and they'll tell you when to harvest. Garlic leaves signal maturity by beginning to turn brown and dying. The lowest (and outermost) leaves die first and then the rest die from the ground up. When the lowest few leaves die down but when the first few leaves die, dig down to the bulb and look to see the size if the bulb and if it is big enough to suit you, harvest but if it is still too small, wait a few days longer for it to size up. Check again every few days until the bulb is big enough. During this time the top leaves are still growing.
Generally with softnecks, the time to harvest is when the lower leaves have all died down and only the top six leaves are still green. Don't wait for the leaves to all die down and fall over like onions do or you will be inviting trouble in the form of overripe bulbs that are unattractive and more subject to fungus, pests and poor storage. Also, the upper leaves of the plant are the ones that determine how many bulb wrappers the harvested bulb will have. If you let the leaves all die down then the bulb wrappers will all rot away and you will have bulbs with the cloves exposed and no bulb wrappers to protect them. Use these bulbs immediately while they're still good-the ones with good bulb wrappers will store longer and better.
On the other hand, research indicates that garlic left in the ground longer has more potency and a stronger taste. Since the cloves within the overripe bulb tend to splay out as they crowd each other out, it becomes easier to break the bulbs apart. In fact, I know growers who say they let the bulbs they want to use as planting stock stay in the ground a little longer than usual because shortened storage is not a problem since it doesn't have to store very long until planting time comes around. These same growers also leave the scapes on their planting stock while cutting them on the stock they intend to sell as cutting scapes makes those bulbs bigger than they otherwise would be.
All the plants of any given variety of garlic will come to maturity at about the same time, but some varieties will mature in the early spring and others not until mid-summer. As each variety approaches maturity, inspect the bulbs so that you can see when they get to the size and condition you want. You can dig down around a few plants to inspect the size and shape of the bulbs, being careful not to disturb the roots, every few days until you are satisfied they are ready to harvest. If they're not ready yet, carefully replace the soil and let them go a few days more then inspect again. If you are growing more than one variety, be sure to inspect some of each and harvest only the ones that are ready.
Once any given variety of garlic starts losing its leaves and there are still eight leaves left (a week to 10 days from harvest), discontinue watering and let the soil begin to dry out some so as to make harvesting easier - it's easier to pull garlic out of loose soil than mud.
When your garlic is ready to harvest, there are several ways to do it. It is important to remove the garlic from the ground without injuring it as it is still a living creature and germs can enter through wounds at a time when its ability to ward them off is diminishing. If you have real loose rich soil, you can simply pull them up by their necks as long as doing so will not tear or damage their necks or roots. Few of us are fortunate enough to have that kind of soil. For most of us the best way is to use a shovel or garden fork and slip the blade down beside them and then work it under them and pry them up from the bottom. Be very careful not to cut the bulbs as you do this. We use a thick, tractor mounted , wedge shaped blade to undercut them below root level and push them up without touching them. The blade gently breaks up the ground under and around them and we retrieve them by hand, lay them gently into a wagon with a sun cover and immediately take them out of the sun and into a cool shady place to cure out for a while.
Be very careful in handling the bulbs at this point and do not bang them together as that can cause them to be bruised and invite storage problems and ruin them for seedstock. Do not throw them onto the ground or into a wagon, place them down gently - you have spent a lot of time and effort to grow them right, don't blow it all now by handling them rough. Get them out of the sun as soon as possible as the sun can scald them or cause them to dry down too quickly and may result in problems.
Many large commercial growers plow them up, windrow them for a few day then cut off the tops and roots and store them, but it's not a good idea. They do it because of the economics involved with personal handling and the cost of building huge drying sheds. Growers who are more concerned with quality than quantity don't do that any more than they would use conveyor belts and let the garlic bounce into truckbeds from the height of three to five feet - which they also do. However you harvest, cure and store your garlic, always keep the different varieties separated and identified so that you will know which is which.
Curing the Garlic
Many growers dispute the proper way to cure the garlic and cut the leaves and roots off for storage. Many growers wash their garlic and see nothing wrong with it while others are horrified by the thought. In my experience, garlic that is washed has a tendency to have wrinkled bulb wrappers that look a little like your fingers do right after a bath.
It also seems to me that the extra moisture that accumulates in the bulb could lead to fungal infestation. Some cut the roots and leaves immediately, some wait a few weeks before trimming and some never trim their garlic. What is proper for one but not another may have to do with climate, humidity, human resources, cost of handling or available facilities.
Many growers dispute the proper way to cure the garlic and cut the leaves and roots off for storage. Many growers wash their garlic and see nothing wrong with it while others are horrified by the thought. In my experience, garlic that is washed has a tendency to have wrinkled bulb wrappers that look a little like your fingers do right after a bath. It also seems to me that the extra moisture that accumulates in the bulb could lead to fungal infestation. Some cut the roots and leaves immediately, some wait a few weeks before trimming and some never trim their garlic. What is proper for one but not another may have to do with climate, humidity, human resources, cost of handling or available facilities.
We feel that garlic likes to dry down gradually in temperatures that are similar to those a few inches underground (about 72F). This initial drydown process is called curing the garlic. The idea is for the excess moisture in the roots and leaves to evaporate or withdraw into the bulb. When the roots and necks are completely dried and it does not emit a typical garlic odor when cut, that is the time to trim it. It usually takes two to four weeks to get to that point, longer for extra large bulbs. If you trim it while it is still moist and green, the fresh cuts expose the garlic to fungi, viruses and other contaminants that can set in and cause the garlic to spoil or pick up some disease you don't want it to have. With softneck garlics, many people braid them before they are completely dried down and are still pliable and never trim the roots while other braiders will trim the roots and flake off an outer bulb wrapper or two to make them more attractive.
After the garlic has cured, it is time to decide whether to trim or how much to trim it and how to store it so that it will last and still be good and healthy a few months later when it is time to plant next years crop or to last you for eating through the winter. USDA standards prescribe no more than a quarter-inch of root and no more than a half-inch of stem. I don't go along with that as I think it makes the garlic difficult to handle. We also use stem length as a means to identify certain garlics at a glance-different varieties of softnecks are cut to different lengths, that is, Locati will have longer stems than Rose du Var, to tell them apart at a glance since both look alike but taste different. It helps our customers identify them better, too. Many growers peel away the outer one or two layers of bulb wrappers in order to remove soil particles and contaminants and to make the bulbs more attractive to purchasers. If you have harvested your garlic at the right time, there should be several layers of bulb wrappers remaining.
Storing the Garlic.
As you might suspect, there is not widespread agreement among growers about storing the garlic any more than there is agreement about anything else. Again, you might try a few different things to see what works well for you. About the only thing that most people agree on is that it is bad to store garlic in plastic bags or sealed containers as these things promote rotting. They also agree that garlic should not be stored in direct sunlight.
Four factors affect the storage of garlic; namely, how well it was grown and cured, its varietal type, temperature and humidity. Garlic that was poorly grown and improperly cured will not get any better in storage. Some varieties naturally store longer than others. Silverskins are the longest storing , with Porcelains coming in second and Rocamboles being the shortest storing varieties, with Purple Stripes and Artichokes falling somewhere in the middle. Specific cultivars of each kind can vary from the pattern, but in general, this is the way it is.
Have you ever noticed that garlic that you buy at the supermarket doesn't seem to store very long once you take it home? There is a reason for that. The USDA recommends storing garlic at 32F, so most large chains of stores do that and require their suppliers to do likewise. Garlic stores well at that low temperature for a few months, (if the humidity isn't too high, which it sometimes is) but when you remove it from cold storage and place it on the shelf for sale, time catches up with it in a hurry. It either deteriorates rapidly or sprouts fairly soon and tries to grow. This makes for a garlic that is good for immediate use only.
We think garlic stores best long term when it is stored at between 55F and 65F and between 40% and 60% humidity. If the humidity stays below 40% for a couple of weeks or more, garlic has a tendency to dry out faster than it otherwise would. If humidity goes higher than 60% for any extended period of time, fungus and molds can set in. If the temperature goes below about 55F for an extended period of time, garlic tends to want to sprout and grow, even if it is not the right time of year (that's why the refrigerator is not a good place to store garlic). If temperatures stay much over 70F for any extended length of time, garlic tends to dry out and deteriorate. These are approximate ranges and need not be taken literally, but are very good guidelines. In our experience, garlic, except Rocamboles will store quite well for four to six months at between 65F and 75F as long as the humidity is moderate.
One of the advantages to keeping garlic around 55 F. is that fungi and other pathogens and pests are much less active than they are with the temp in the 75-80 F. range. Keeping them cool, but not cool enough to sprout them is the key to storing garlic well. It's pretty hard for the average person to achieve the proper temperature range for ideal storage of garlic.
It is important that airflow around the bulbs not be restricted too much as this hastens deterioration. A ventilated terra cotta storage jar is the best way to store garlic for the average person, since most people don't have grandpa's root cellar anymore.
We have found that garlic stored in double paper bags in the shade in a normally air conditioned house seems to do pretty good. Of course, this isn't practical if you have several thousand bulbs, but works quite nicely for a few dozen. Basically, any dark, cool place is ok as long as the humidity is not excessive.
Good luck and enjoy the fruit of your labor. You will probably discover that you get much better tasting and longer storing garlic when you grow your own from selected cultivars than the garlic you get at the local supermarket. Enjoy.
Good luck and enjoy the fruit of your labor. You will probably discover that you get much better tasting and longer storing garlic when you grow your own from selected cultivars than the garlic you get at the local supermarket. Enjoy.Back to Growing Tips Table of Contents
Available Garlics Listed by Alphabetical order
Clicking on a garlic name will give you a color picture and/or complete description of that specific garlic and a shopping cart to buy it.
Comments in black mean we are currently accepting orders for this garlic or expect to have it in 2012.
Back to this page's Table of Contents
Available Garlics Listed by Taste/Flavor
Clicking on a garlic name will give you a color
picture and/or complete description of that specific garlic and a shopping cart to buy it.
Comments in black mean we are currently accepting
orders for this garlic or expect to have it in 2011.
Back to this page's Table of Contents
Medium Flavored Gourmet Garlics
Back to this page's Table of Contents
Hotter, Stronger Flavored Gourmet Garlics
Garlics are listed in alphabetical order, not in order of pungency.
Limited availability of some varieties may necessitate substitutions, but we'll try to get you an equivalent alternative.
Back to this page's Table of Contents
- The information below is from gourmetgarlicgardens.com -
Important notes for credit/debit card users:
This Farmers market is like your local farmers market. Each grower handles their own financial transactions.
Prices and availability of garlic subject to change without notice.
How Our Garlics are Grown
All the garlic for sale in our online farmers market was grown without the use of petrochemical pesticides, herbicides, or fertilizers; only natural and non-toxic fertilizers and pest control methods are used.
Some of our growers are Certified Organic and some are Certified Naturally Grown, which we regard as equal to Certified Organic in every meaningful way but without all the bureaucratic entanglements. All our farmers market growers grow organically and some are Certified Organic but not all want to be certified Organic because of the paperwork and reporting requirements and are among the best available sources of sustainable/ organic Garlic and they become Certified Naturally Grown, where the regulation comes from their fellow members rather than a federal bureacracy.
We do not allow growers who use synthetic petroleum-based fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides or herbicides to participate in our farmers market.
All garlic in our farmers market is grown in North America, no others allowed.
We will be adding and deleting and changing the status of varieties often as our growers sell out of some and
add more varieties so check back regularly to see what we currently list as available.
If you don't see what you want, check back again, we may have it later - we receive news about what's available from our growers continually. Or, E-Mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Four ways to buy from us:
If you know the name of the garlic you want to buy you can look it up in an alphabetical listing and click on its name...or
If you don't know the name of a good garlic, look one up in a listing by taste - mild, medium or strong and click on its name...or
Go to our farmers market and select a grower you feel good about and buy direct from them...or
Call me at (325) 348-3049
Order now for shipment in late summer/early fall 2013.
This Farmers market is like your local farmers market.
New - The Complete Book of Garlic is the best, most comprehensive book yet about garlic.
The Complete Book of Garlic
by Ted Jordan Meredith
The Classic Commercial Garlic Growers Guide
Growing Great Garlic
by Ron Engeland
A Miscellany of Garlic
is the newest book about garlic and it is well-written and reads easy as the author has a warm friendly writing style that makes it fun to read.
by Trina Clickner
If you don't see what you want, E-Mail email@example.com
Basic Ordering Information
On any page of this website where the lists of garlic cultivars are displayed you can click on the name of any garlic and get a picture and/or a detailed description of that variety and some buttons you can click on to buy direct from different growers. Just decide how many pounds of which varieties you want from each grower and use your credit card to buy on line.
We make no guarantees or warranties of any kind whatsoever, expressed or implied, with respect to our garlic or the garlic sold by any growers who sell their garlic through our website. We do not guarantee or warrant the fitness, suitability or usability of our garlic for any particular purpose. We state only that the varieties we and the growers who sell through our website ship are to the best of our knowledge, the varieties we say they are. Any and all liability from all causes is limited to a refund of a customer's payment for the garlic in question.
We and the growers who sell through our website take great care to grow, harvest, cure and store our garlic properly and we will not knowingly ship garlic that is damaged, defective or diseased in any way we can see, feel or smell. We pack the garlic so as to minimize any probability of damage in shipment. If; however, you receive garlic that goes bad within 30 days, please call or e-mail the grower immediately stating the problem and return the defective garlic to the grower via Priority US Mail and the grower will either replace it at no additional charge, or refund your money for the defective garlic. It is our desire to provide our customers with the best garlic we can produce and enhance our reputation for excellence - but we cannot be held responsible for what happens after the garlic leaves our care.
All products are for sale to United States addresses only. We are not familiar with import-export laws and do not wish to engage in foreign trade at this time.
More TO COME...
Garlic Books, Garlic Accessories and Gardening Tools, Etc.
- Pictures of our Fabulous spring wildflowers some years. -
Bob Phillips' Texas Country Reporter did a story on me and the garlic for their long running TV program -
click here to see the 6:28 video on youtube:
Garlicmeister, a self-inflicted title for amusement only.
Photo courtesy of Bill Yeates.
If you would like to
communicate with us, please send email to:
Gourmet Garlic Gardens,
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