Planting Garlic by Karla Basallaje, Hunt County Master Gardener.
Garlic (Allium Sativum), is in the amaryllis family and is native to central Asia. There are two types of garlic, the hardneck variety (the bolting type) and the softneck variety (the non-bolting type). Bolting refers to the production of a flower stalk and bulbil, in this case. Garlic is considered by many, as an easy crop to grow; however, it is best to remember the basics: know your soil, your climate and location.
Choose a sunny spot to grow your garlic, most growers prefer full sun; however, partial sun is ok too especially if you are trying to grow hardneck varieties that grow better in cooler temperatures choosing partial shade during the hottest time of the day. Garlic needs well-draining, friable soil. It will not grow in soggy or compacted soil, as the bulbs will either rot or not grow very large. Consider growing your garlic in raised beds, amend by adding organic matter such as humus, manure, and compost –mix it in thoroughly until the soil is light and fluffy. In this area of Texas, the softneck or non-bolting varieties are more commonly grown as they do better in warmer climates. Some of the more common softneck varieties are: California Early, California Late Silverwhite, Inchelium red and Italian Loiacono. Softnecks store better, up to 9-12 months if cured and stored properly, and the bulbs are generally larger. It is best to purchase your planting garlic from a garlic farm or quality online source. Grocery store garlic may not be suited to our area and they are sometimes sprayed with chemicals to inhibit growth.
A good time to plant your garlic is in mid October; however, you can plant up until December. When your beds are ready, crack the heads of the garlic open and plant each clove leaving their papery covering intact. The clove is generally planted 2 to 6 inches deep. The deeper the clove is planted, the cooler it will keep. It is probably a good idea if you are experimenting with hardneck varieties to plant it at about 6 inches deep. Plant 6 inches apart with the pointed side up and the root end down. Plant only the largest cloves so that the cloves in your bulb have the best chance to be at least as large as the clove you are planting. Each clove will grow into a garlic bulb. After planting be sure to mulch with straw or shredded leaves about 2 inches.
The goal is to have the garlic plant develop big healthy leaves, the larger the plant, the larger the bulb. You want to grow the bulb for as long as possible before it starts to mature. Water about 1-2 inches a week; stop watering two weeks before harvest.
Harvest takes place in the summer about June or July when the leaves turn yellow and you have about 50% dieback of the leaves. Carefully pull out the garlic heads and although they may be eaten right away, most growers will cure the garlic hanging them upside down in a cool, well-ventilated area for at least two weeks. Trim the stalks and the roots and store in a cool place. Be sure to visit Texas A&M horticultural websites for more information.