October is when you want to plant garlic in North Texas. Watch the video below for details, or scroll down to read the blog.
October in North Texas means it’s time to plant garlic. Why? Because garlic takes eight to nine months to mature. If you want to be harvesting next summer, you need to get it in the ground now.
This year, we planted hardneck variety called Music and a softneck variety called Early Italian in our garden at Shades of Green.
Hardneck vs. Softneck Garlic
When it comes to garlic, you have a choice between hardneck and softneck varieties. The neck refers to the stalk that grows upward from the garlic bulb. Hardnecks have an edible stalk called a scape that becomes rigid at maturity. Softneck stalks consist of leaves and remain soft and flexible at maturity.
Hardnecks have more complex flavors than softneck varieties. Softnecks have a milder flavor, better suited to a wider range of recipes, and they can be stored for longer periods of time. How long? The Early Italian we planted can be kept for up to 10 months after harvest!
Softneck varieties typically do better in warmer climates, whereas hardnecks tend to do better in colder climates. That said, you can have success with both here in North Texas.
Lastly, softnecks usually mature more quickly than hardneck varieties, but not in our case. Both the hardneck Music and the softneck Early Italian we planted will mature in 240 days. That’s eight months, meaning that by planting now, we’ll be harvesting in June of next year.
Garlic Bed Prep
Before you can harvest, you’ve got to plant, and that begins with good bed prep. Garlic is a heavy feeder and so you’ll want to add some compost, manure, and fertilizer to the soil before you plant. Garlic will set roots in the fall so that it can pull up the nutrients it needs to get through the winter.
We amended our bed with two inches of compost and an inch of composted cattle manure. To that, we added a dusting of Garden-tone organic fertilizer from Espoma and Bone Meal. Bone Meal is high in phosphorus, which is a great source of food for a bulb plant like a garlic.
If you have a raised bed with loose, un-compacted soil, you can simply mix everything into the top 4-5 inches of soil with your hands or you can use a trowel.
To plant garlic, you need to break the bulbs apart. You should be able to do this easily with your hands, but if it’s a bit difficult consider using a potato peeler or butter knife. Avoid using a sharp knife as you might cut or puncture the cloves and that might cause them to rot.
Once the bulb has been separated into individual cloves, clean the “wrapper” off the cloves. You’ll notice that each clove has a flat end and a pointy end. You’ll plant them flat end down and pointy end up. You can make a row and place them 4-6 inches apart or you can use your finger to make a hole for each clove. You want 1-2 inches of soil covering each clove. If you run out of space and have cloves left over, take them to the kitchen and add them to your recipes.
Harvesting garlic couldn’t be easier. When garlic reaches maturity, the leaves begin to turn brown. When 50% of the leaves are brown stop watering for 1-2 weeks. After that, you can dig your garlic up and set it in a cool, dry place to cure. Don’t yank your garlic up by the leaves/stalk. You may damage the garlic or the dried leaves may snap off the bulb and you’ll end up digging for it anyway. So just dig them up to begin with.
Humans have been growing garlic for thousands of years. In that time, we’ve really dialed it in when it comes to “days to maturity.” If a variety says, “240 days to maturity,” you can pretty much mark your calendar and be ready to harvest at that time. But every garden has its own unique microclimate and Texas weather can swing from one extreme to another and back again in the course of 8-9 months. Mark your calendar as a benchmark, but use the browning leaves to know for sure when to harvest.
When you do harvest, place your garlic in spot with good air circulation out of direct sunlight. A garage or a covered patio or porch works great for this. If you can, place the garlic on a wire table so that it has air circulation above and below. Leave it there for two to three weeks. After that, you can start using it to cook with, but be sure to save a few bulbs to plant the following October.
Written by Tim Wardell, Texas Certified Nursery Professional, Certified Square Foot Gardening Instructor, and Marketing Manager at Shades of Green Nursery + Landscape.