Garlic is usually classified as either soft-neck or hard-neck. Elephant garlic is
sometimes classified as a third type, but is actually a type of leek instead.
Hard-neck garlic has a harder, more woody stem. Most of the older varieties
including most wild garlic varieties fall into this category. It should be noted that not
all wild garlic is considered edible. Hard-neck varieties will shoot a flowering stalk
which will produce something that looks like seed, but are called bulbils. I am told
that some of the wild varieties will still produce an actual seed. Hard-neck varieties
usually do better than soft-neck varieties in cold climates. Hard-neck varieties
usually have a thinner skin over the cloves. This makes it easier to remove the skin,
but also provides less protection for the cloves. The hard-neck varieties also do not
store as long as most soft-neck varieties.
Most of the garlic sold in supermarkets are of the soft-neck variety. They grow with a
softer stem, and normally do not produce a flower or bulbils. The soft-neck varieties
have a thicker skin over the gloves which is good for commercial processing. The
cloves also have a longer shelf life. Soft-neck varieties are grown best in mild
climates, such as northern California.
Propagation of Garlic:
Garlic is a bulb that is usually planted in the fall and harvested around mid-summer.
Garlic is a cool weather crop. Bulbs will not form properly without a winter, cool down
period. Refrigerating the bulbs for several weeks before planting is one way to get
around the cool winter requirement. Right before planting, the cloves can be
separated from the bulb and planted. Each clove will produce a new bulb the
following summer. The cloves are planted root side down, pointed side up. You can
also plant the bulbils of the hard-neck varieties, but it will take at least two years to
get a mature bulb of garlic. The bulbils will produce a plant with a small onion-like
bulb the first year. During the second summer the onion-like bulb should produce a
full clove, garlic bulb. Planting stock should be obtained from a local seed and bulb
supplier. Garlic bought in the produce store are usually imported from mild climate
regions. This garlic is also stored in a way to preserve freshness rather than good
seed stock. Garlic varieties are region specific. Mild climate garlic may die in cold
weather. Extra mulch may help them to live, but they may have a different taste than
if grown in the mild climate. I have tried planting store bought, soft-neck garlic in the
spring. By mid summer I had some decent size bulbs. It doesn't hurt to experiment,
unless you are planting a large field.
Garlic is harvested around mid summer. They are usually ready for harvest when
about a third of the leaves turn brown. Start by digging only a bulb or two to make
sure the bulbs are fully developed. After the harvest the bulbs must be cured or
dried before storage. The curing should be done in a well ventilated area out of
direct sun light. The tops can be braided together and hung up, or they can be hung
in an onion sack. After curing the tops can be removed and the cloves stored at a
cool room temperature in a dark place.
This page was developed to share my gardening and landscaping experience with
others. The site contains only general information on different plants. I do not
guarantee all information to be accurate. I do not accept any responsibility for
anyone's growing success. Please consult with your plant or seed supplier for
detailed planting instructions.