Allium sativum L, also known as garlic, is a perennial plant in Texas. Today garlic is arguably the most utilized member of the lily family (Liliaceae) cultivated in Texas. Around October, you can smell the putid delights of garlic and onions in the air as they are being planted.
Apart from warding off vampires, garlic is used as a condiment frequently used as a spice and flavoring in foods such as sausages, pickles, and soups. It is also widely used in other cuisines and salads. Garlic salt is prepared by pulverizing and dehydrating garlic cloves. Garlic bulbs, as well as green tips, are also used in many nations.
Do Garlic Plants Produce Seeds?
Garlic doesn’t produce seeds but is reproduced by planting a garlic clove, little segments, and bulblets that make up the entire garlic bulb. Because garlic is perennial, it can be grown in late autumn. It is extremely frost tolerant, and when planted in October, tops may show above the ground, and the roots are fully established by November. The crop is usually harvested in June. However, the growth period before bulbing might be short for high yields if planted during spring.
However, if you are thinking of cultivating garlic, you should determine the best garlic to cultivate. You will have to choose between the hard neck and soft neck garlic.
Hardneck and Softneck Garlic
The term neck refers to the stalk that sprouts from the garlic cloves. In Hardnecks, the stalk grows from the clove’s core and becomes hard when mature. On the other hand, softneck garlic doesn’t have a central stalk; instead, its stalk has leaves. At maturity, the leaves in softnecks remain flexible and soft.
Hardneck garlic has brittle and thicker skin than softneck garlic, which is papery and more difficult to peel. If you want to cultivate garlic you purchase in the supermarket; you should plant softneck garlic. They are widely available in supermarkets due to their long shelf life and have a very mild flavor in many cuisines.
Hardnecks tend to have a richer flavor compared to softnecks. However, the character and intensity of the flavors vary depending on the variety. For example, rocamboles are spicy and hot, Porcelains are musky, and Purple stripes have a mild flavor.
Hardnecks are cold-hardy, capable of withstanding harsh winters. If you reside in areas with cold season lawns, i.e., Creeping fescue and Bluegrass, cultivating hardneck garlic is the best option. Softneck garlic thrives best in regions with moderate winters and hot summers with warm-season lawns like Bermudagrass and Carpetgrass.
As their name suggests, hardneck garlic varieties are hardier compared to softneck garlic varieties. For Northern farmers, hardnecks are the best to cultivate. They produce fewer cloves, but they are often larger. This type of garlic grows better in cold areas because it needs 40 days of cold weather at 40°F. This process is known as vernalization.
The hardneck family has over 200 varieties.
Types of Hardneck
- Marbled Purple Stripe
- Purple Stripe
- Glazed Purple Stripe
- Middle Eastern
Porcelain, Rocambole, and Purple Stripe are the three primary types of hardneck garlic. Rocambole has a tan bulb with 12 cloves. Porcelain has a bulb with 12 cloves and is satiny white. Rocambole and Purple Stripe varieties are the hardiest. They are ideal for farmers in Northern Texas. Gardeners in warmer regions can also cultivate the Porcelain variety successfully.
Compared to softneck garlic, hardneck varieties have a shorter shelf life.
If you reside in areas where the climate is mild, softneck garlic varieties are the best to grow. They thrive in warm climates, like central Texas, since they do not need exposure to cold to produce bulbs. Hey, also develop faster than hardneck types. They do not produce scapes and often have numerous tiny cloves per bulb.
Types of Softneck
- Blanco Piacenza
- Late Whites and California Early
- Inchelium Red
- Blanco Piacenza
- Silver Rose
- French Red
- Silver White
Because of their densely wrapped cloves and tight heads, softnecks have a longer shelf life compared to hardneck varieties. This dense wrapping keeps the cloves wet while also preventing bacteria and diseases from entering the bud.
If properly cured and stored, softnecks can remain firm and fresh for up to nine months. Therefore, softneck varieties are the ones to choose from if you need long-term storage.
How to Grow Garlic Cloves?
The technique for planting softneck and hardneck garlic is the same as the planting season- autumn. Hardnecks are often planted in mid-October, before winter. For softnecks, you can wait a couple of weeks before planting.
It is important to prepare the soil a week before you plant cloves by adding a healthy amount of aged organic matter or compost manure to the soil. Then, before planting garlic, add a couple of teaspoons of high nitrogen fertilizer, fishmeal, or bone meal in the soil a few inches to the base of the clove.
If the soil in your garden is not well drained soil or is made up of heavy clay, it is recommended to plant garlic in raised, heavily mulched beds. The raised bed needs to be two to three inches deep six to eight inches apart.
Also, when growing, garlic mulching helps minimize weeds’ growth, protects the cloves during winters, and keeps water and nutrients in the soil.
Can You Cultivate Store-Bought Garlic?
While growing garlic bought from the supermarket is feasible, it isn’t recommended. Garlic from grocery shops generally doesn’t grow well in kitchen gardens and produces little bulbs. In addition, because commercial garlic originates from large-scale farming regions with moderate weather, the garlic cloves may not be suitable for growing in your local environment and may also carry diseases and pests.
Also, if the garlic is not organic, it might be treated with chemicals to prevent sprouting. Planting garlic varieties that are especially suited to your region, climate, and growing season will yield better results.
When Should You Plant Garlic?
The best time to plant garlic is often in autumn, and it is harvested in the summer. It is vital to plant garlic cloves six to eight weeks ahead of the first frost fall date in hard frost locations. Garlic grows best when it can go into “dormancy” for four to eight weeks in cold temperatures (40°F). Garlic bulbs planted in autumn have enough time to develop strong roots before the ground freezes and only have little top growth.
The bulbs then “wake up” from their dormancy in early spring and begin rapidly generating foliage, then bulbs, before the summer’s severe heat. Also, garlic can be planted in February or March in mild climatic regions, although the emerging bulbs will be smaller. On the other hand, garlic scapes are still available during the summer (Scapes are the tender green tops of the plant that have a faint garlic flavor.)
Serve with salads and eggs, and use it in stir-fries or pizza toppings. If you want to plant in spring, waiting until the soil breaks away or can be worked easily is best.
You should calculate your expected harvest date based on the growth period of the variety planted. In general, watch for fading leaves, but this isn’t true for all garlic kinds. When the falls begin to fall over and turn yellow before drying, harvest the garlic cloves.
It’s a good idea to try one bulb before digging up the entire crop. First, check the crop by lifting a bulb. We frequently pull up a bulb before the tips become yellow, as certain garlic varieties mature earlier. If ready, the garlic head will separate into plump cloves with thick, papery, and dry skin wrapping the bulbs.
If the bulb wrapping is peeled too soon, it might be thin and disintegrate easily. Likewise, it might split if you leave it in the ground for too long. The epidermis may also crack, exposing the bulbs to bacteria and diseases, resulting in reduced shelf life.
To harvest, use a garden fork to delicately dig up the bulbs (do not pull or tug stems by hand).
After you harvest garlic, it is important to cure it. Harvesting and curing softneck and hardneck garlic is, however, concealer. Once cured, hardneck garlic can be stored in bunches, whereas softneck garlic can be braided for attractive and practical storage.
Curing garlic extends its shelf life. Curing is simply letting the garlic buds dry for 2 weeks- 2months depending on the climate in your region. Large bulbs cure for a long time compared to small bulbs. Garlic is best stored when it is cured with the leaves still attached. The leaves and roots provide energy to the bulb until it has lost all of its moisture.
The garlic is dry if the outer skin becomes papery and shrinks. The roots will appear shriveled and hard, and the leaves will have completely dried and browned. Using prunes or scissors, clip the root and remove the leaves. If you want the wrapped bulb to stay fresh for long, keep it whole.
Store it in a dry, dark, and well-ventilated room. It would be best if you did not store garlic in the refrigerator because it might sprout and get moldy.