Knowing when to plant different vegetables can be confusing. In Central Texas, we have a fairly mild winter. This means we are able to plant “cool-season” vegetables in the fall for harvest in the spring. Garlic is one of these cool weather plants. The ideal time to plant garlic here is in October and November. It is so easy, you will wonder why you haven’t been planting it all along! See the garlic plants on the right side of this photo?
Garlic grows best in rich organic soil with good drainage. There are two types of garlic: hard neck and soft neck. Hard-neck garlics require a long winter chilling period to form correctly, and do not do well in our area. Soft-neck garlic will form a bulb with the amount of chilling we have in our area, so that is the garlic we plant here. When you buy your garlic bulbs from Backbone Valley Nursery, simply separate the bulb into individual cloves. Use the largest cloves to plant and save the smaller ones to cook with or discard them. To prevent fungal diseases, soak the individual cloves in a jar of water containing 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of liquid seaweed. Plant the individual cloves 4 to 6 inches apart and make sure the “pointy” side is UP, about 1”-2” below the surface of the soil. Mulch the bed with straw or mulch.
Water the garlic in well and keep the soil moist but not soggy. The garlic will begin growth in about 2 weeks, and grow slowly throughout the winter. You do not need to cover them for freezing temperatures. Your garlic will be ready to harvest by May or June when a few of the bottom leaves start to turn yellow. Stop watering about a week before you harvest so the bulbs can “firm up”. If your garlic begins to bloom, cut the spikes off so the carbohydrate production goes to the bulb and not to form seeds. Dig your garlic rather than pulling them up, and they will store better. Wash the soil off and lay them out to dry in a cool, dry place. When dry, you can either make garlic braids or cut the dead leaves off about 1” from the top of the bulb and store in a cool, dry location. Be sure to keep the largest bulbs for planting next year.
Organic Early Italian Purple: Large bulbs with numerous cloves wrapped in white skin with purple stripes. Vigorous widely adapted plants are relatively heat tolerant, store well, and are good for braiding.
Organic Inchelium Red Garlic: Found growing on the Colville Indian Reservation in Inchelium Washington. Light purple blotching on bulbs. Compound bulbs have 8-10outer cloves and 10-15 small cloves in the center of the bulb. Rated the best tasting garlic by the Rodale Institute in 1990. (12-16 cloves/bulb)