This Fall Grow Garlic
Growing garlic in the home garden can be easy and rewarding. The flavor of fresh garlic is milder and more pleasing to the palate.
The two main types of garlic are soft neck and hard neck. Soft neck is the kind usually found in the market. It grows in most areas, rarely produces flower stalk, stores well, and has a good flavor. It can be difficult to peel.
Hard neck varieties can be fussy about where they will grow, produce a flower stalk, flavor can vary, but they peel easily.
In Eastern NC, plant garlic in the fall through November, early enough for the root system to develop before winter. Cloves should be planted pointed up, 2-4 inches deep, and 4-6 inches apart in rows. Garlic requires a soil high in organic matter with a pH of 6.2 – 6.8. Fertilize according to soil test recommendations. Garlic requires good soil moisture, but as harvest nears, reduce watering because it can cause bulbs to deteriorate. Organic mulches can help hold moisture and prevent weed growth. If flower stalks appears, they can be sniped off to encourage bulb growth.
Harvest garlic when green tops turn brown and begin to dry, usually June-July. After harvesting, garlic needs to cure before storage.
Drying can be achieved by hanging in barns or garages, or outdoors on racks. Cover when outdoors to avoid dew or high humidity. When thoroughly dried, garlic can be cleaned of dirt and roots and stored 5-8 months in cool conditions, either braided or in mesh bags for good air circulation. The intense flavor of fresh home grown garlic will surprise you!
Lorraine Ciccotti is an Extension Master Gardener Volunteer with North Carolina Cooperative Extension in Lee County