Garlic is a super vegetable to include in the home garden, once you know that it has to be planted in the Fall, not Spring or Summer: late September through November, depending, as long as you get the cloves in the ground before the first hard frost. Garlic gets a start in Fall, lies dormant in winter’s cold, then roars back to life in the Spring. Harvest garlic in July, as the tops begin to die back.
Correct planting time and a deeply worked, sunny garden location with good drainage. That’s about all it takes to grow delicious and elegant garlic, and homegrown garlic is big, juicy, and flavorful. You will be spoiled once you grow your own, and never want store-bought again.
The only catch is that garlic for planting is an order-ahead item. Sow True Seed sells the most luscious seed garlic I have seen anywhere, but the supply is limited. Even in Spring or Summer, go ahead and order garlic so that it will be delivered to you at the proper time, usually in September. If you don’t order ahead – and that’s true for just about any seed house – it may be too late to find seed garlic at all.
Why not just buy a head of garlic at the grocery store and use those cloves for planting? Well, you have no way to know what has been sprayed on that garlic, and it may be sprayed with a sprouting inhibitor; just what you don’t need. Seed garlic – heads that are harvested especially for planting – may be a lot larger and have a better chance to sprout.
Hardneck or softneck garlic? That is the question. Each has different characteristics and favors different climates. In general, softneck garlic is for the hot South, while hardneck is for the colder North. Both can do well in the middle section of the country. The key is actually day length. Why not try a Sow True Seed sample pack that includes both kinds, and see which does best for your conditions.
Good luck, and good eating!
by Nan K. Chase
P.S. Sow True Seed hosted a great little garlic festival last Fall at their Asheville, N.C. store. The date this year is Sept 26th 2015, see more at wncgarlicfest.com