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Article by: Nadia Hassani  |  Picture by: Ted Rosen
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The hardneck type of garlic stores well and comes in a variety colours and flavours. Garlic needs a sunny location, rich in humus. 'Scapes' – garlic's shoots that appear in spring – must be cut, and are a food delicacy in their own right. This article takes you through clove selection, planting, caring and harvesting garlic.

Growing garlic at a glance
Garlic is planted in autumn and harvested the next summer. Garlic needs an extended cold period so the clove can grow into a new bulb.

Each clove produces a new head. As not all cloves will sprout, figure in up to 15% extra when planting.

Large, healthy-looking cloves are best for planting. Garlic from a supermarket is not suitable for planting. It might be treated, or it could have been grown in a different climate than your own. Use special planting garlic from a nursery or garden centre, or get untreated garlic at a reliable local source.

Garlic needs a sunny location with loose, well-drained soil rich in organic matter and compost.

As a member of the onion family, garlic should not be grown in an area where its fellow crop family members - onion, leek, shallots or spring onions - were grown the year before.

Garlic is a good repellent against many pests and thus an ideal companion plant for most vegetables, with the exception of beans, peas, parsley and sage, which do not grow well near garlic.

Types of garlic
There are two main categories of garlic: hardneck and softneck. Softneck garlic is used for plaits and decorative ropes. Hardneck garlic is the preferred type for individual bulbs, as it is less prone to diseases and stores well. Elephant garlic is grown just like garlic.

In each category there are numerous varieties of garlic: white, red, purple, mild or pungent, early, mid-season and late garlic.
Autumn planting
The best time to plant garlic is in the early autumn. Time it so that the garlic has several weeks before the first frost to establish a root system that will hold the cloves in place and the cold weather will not lift them out of the ground. If planted too early in warm autumn weather, garlic will not only grow roots but also send up shoots, which unnecessarily take energy out of the plant before the winter.

Garlic-planting steps
1. Gently break up the bulbs into individual cloves. Discard any cloves that look diseased or off-coloured.

2. Dig a furrow 5cm deep. Place the garlic cloves at 15cm intervals with their tips up and their bases down. If you grow several rows, leave 30cm between each row. Mark each row.

Proper spacing is crucial because you will need sufficient room to dig out the bulbs with a shovel at harvest without injuring the neighbouring bulbs.

3. Cover with soil and mulch with 8 to 10cm of loose, clean straw. This will control weeds and temperature and retain moisture.
Garlic not a good match for containers
Because of its relatively deep roots, garlic is not very suitable for containers. If you don't have any other options, choose a very large container that is at least 20cm deep, and insulate it from the cold with straw, mulch or soil.
Caring for garlic
Garlic requires little maintenance. Regular weeding is important, because garlic mostly grows underground and thus cannot fight weeds, which grow above ground and can easily overgrow garlic. Weed with a cultivator and be careful not to stir up the soil too deeply so you won’t injure the bulbs underground.

From emergence in the spring to maturity in mid-summer, garlic needs two-thumb widths of water every week. Deep watering is required to reach the bulbs. Be careful though - if you water too much and the soil gets too wet and soggy, the bulbs can rot.

Apply a fertiliser high in nitrogen three times: first at planting, second in early spring when the shoots emerge, and third in late spring.

Removal of garlic scapes
Garlic step picture 12
1. In late spring/early summer garlic produces a flower stalk on each plant called 'scapes'.

Garlic step picture 13
2. As early as possible, cut off the scapes at the base where they emerge from the leaves. Do not let them reach bloom. This way the plant can put all its energy into producing larger bulbs.
Ready to eat anytime
All the parts of a garlic plant are edible, and at any stage: the greens, the unsegmented bulbs in early spring (also called green garlic), the stems of the scapes and the uncured bulbs.
Harvesting and curing garlic
Garlic step picture 15
1. When 40% to 60% of the leaves have turned yellow in mid-summer, the garlic is ready for harvesting. Dig out a few cloves as a test. The cloves should be tightly attached to the neck, the outer skin dry and the bulb well segmented into individual cloves.

Garlic step picture 16
2. The cloves should not pull away from the neck – if that is the case, the garlic is still fine but you have waited too long for harvesting, which shortens the storage life.

Garlic step picture 17
3. Dig deeply into the soil with a shovel at least at 10cm distance from the plant, forcing the shovel underneath the bulb so as not to bruise and injure the bulbs.

4. Gently lift the whole plant out of the ground and shake off the excess soil. Do not wash the garlic, it will make it rot.

Garlic step picture 19
5. Place the garlic in a dry dark place with good ventilation, preferably on a mesh off the floor, and without the bulbs touching each other. Leave them for several days depending on weather until the outer two skins are papery dry.

Storing garlic
Garlic step picture 21
1. Rub the skin of the cloves clean, if necessary with a damp cloth. Cut off the stems at the top of the bulb and cut off the roots close to the base of the bulbs.

2. Tie the garlic in bundles and hang up in a cool place. Places with higher humidity such as basements work best. In a dry environment, the garlic will dry out quicker. Do not store garlic in the refrigerator, as the cloves will start to sprout prematurely.
Save your own garlic for planting
To have garlic ready for your next fall planting, set aside plump, blemish-free bulbs from your own harvest to use as seed stock. Store them in the same place as the rest of your harvest.
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