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Garlic Information

Garlic InformationGarlic appears in almost every country’s cuisine. It is easy to grow, stores well and takes little space in the garden. It has few pests and in fact is a natural insect repellent.

Garlic can be planted in the fall or spring. However, in Canada, most varieties do best when planted in the fall.


  • Neck – Refers to the stalk that grows upward from the garlic bulb. Hardneck and softneck are the terms used to distinguish the varieties of garlic.
  • Hardneck – Have a stalk that emerges from the center of the bulb and turns rigid at maturity.
  • Softneck – Stalks are made up of leaves rather than the central stalk which remain soft and flexible at maturity.
  • Head – The bulb of garlic.
  • Cloves – The individual segments which make up the head or bulb.
  • Scape – The narrow stalk that forms as the seed head, when harvested young and green it is edible. Harvesting the scape will not harm the bulb.

Garlic Varieties

Hardneck Garlic

Garlic Information

  • Closely resembles wild garlic. Has complex flavours and is considered more flavourful than softnecks.
  • Hardnecks do not store as long as softnecks. Typically, around 4-10 months.
  • Develop a long flowering stem (scape).
  • Single row of cloves in the papery skin form the head or bulb of garlic.
  • Cut scapes from hardneck plants early summer as seed formation in the flower head robs energy from the plant, resulting in smaller heads.
  • They do best in colder climates as they are more winter hardy.
  • Peel more easily than softneck.
  • Fewer cloves per head but cloves are larger than softnecks.
  • Varieties of hardneck include Metechi and Spanish Roja.

Softneck Garlic

  • Best for warmer climates as they are generally not as hardy as hardneck.
  • Softneck varieties store well and are fit for mass production.
  • Produces many cloves per head. The cloves will vary in size within the bulb.
  • Softnecks do not develop a flower stalk (scape). The stems stay soft and flexible. They are excellent for creating garlic braids.
  • Varieties of softneck include Silver White and California Softneck.

Planting Garlic

  • Practice crop rotation. Plant the garlic in a different spot in your garden each year.
  • Purchase garlic for planting from a seed company or garden center. Do not plant grocery store garlic as the variety may not be suited for your area and may have been treated to extend its shelf life.
  • Well-draining soil is preferable.
  • The addition of organic matter is beneficial.
  • Full sun is best.
  • Separate the bulbs into individual cloves just before planting. Do not remove the papery husk surrounding the clove.
  • Place cloves in the soil with the pointed end up.
  • Plant 2-4 inches deep.
  • Space cloves in rows 4-6 inches apart.
  • Each row should be 1.5-2 feet apart.
  • Always follow the directions on the packaging for planting.

Growing Garlic

  • In northern climates, it is advisable to mulch the bed with straw over winter.
  • Remove mulch in the spring after the threat of frost has passed.
  • Cut off flower stalks when they emerge in the spring.
  • Fertilize in early spring and again just before the bulbs begin to swell around early May. Garlic is a heavy feeder, so use a nitrogen-rich fertilizer such as blood meal or hen manure.
  • Keep the area weeded. Garlic does not like competition for nutrients.

Harvesting Garlic

  • Usually ready around late July or early August when planted in the fall.
  • Harvest when the tops begin to yellow and fall over, before they are completely dry.
  • To check, lift a bulb to see if it is ready. The head will be divided into fat cloves and the skin covering will be thick, papery and dry.
  • If the garlic is harvested too early, the papery wrapping will be too thin and disintegrate. If it is left too late, the bulbs can split apart in the ground exposing the cloves and causing them not to store well.
  • Dig up the bulbs using a spade or garden fork. Do not pull them out of the ground.
  • Let bulbs cure in an airy, dry, shady spot for two weeks.
  • The flavour will increase as the bulbs are dried.
  • Once the bulbs are dry, store them.
  • You can save some of your largest, well-formed bulbs to plant again come fall.
  • You can harvest the scapes of hardneck varieties and this will not hurt the bulb. Use the scapes for cooking the same way you use garlic bulbs.

Storing Garlic

  • It is best to keep the head whole.
  • Remove any dirt.
  • Trim off any roots or leaves.
  • Keep the papery outer skin on. You can remove the dirtiest outer ones if desired.
  • Remove the tops and roots.
  • Keep in a dark, dry place with good air circulation.
  • Do not store in your basement if it is damp.
  • Do not store garlic in the refrigerator as this can cause it to sprout and become bitter.

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