By Donnetta Wilhelm, Colorado Master Gardener
Gardeners always like easy reminders for gardening chores. Here’s a simple one: plant garlic during the Major League Baseball World Series (October) and harvest garlic during the Major League All-Star Game (July).
Hardneck varieties are known for the stiff neck, larger cloves and a flowering stem known as a scape which is cut off (and delicious in stir fry!). Hardneck bulbs have 4-12 cloves, are generally spicier, more tolerant of cold winters, and have shorter storage times. Cold hardy varieties include: Bogatyr, Creole Red, Italian Purple, Korean Mountain, Montana Giant, Persian Star, Romanian Red, and Spanish Roja.
Softneck varieties have 8-20 irregularly shaped cloves depending on the variety. Bulbs are smaller, and the plant does not produce a scape. Their “soft neck” is easy to braid for storage and are usually the bulbs found in the general garlic bin at grocery stores. Cold hardy varieties include: California White, Chet’s Italian, Chilean Silver, Early Italian Red, Kettle River Giant, Nootka, Polish White, and Sicilian Artichoke.
THE OCTOBER LINEUP:
- Avoid planting grocery store garlic; it may not be cold hardy and may have a sprout inhibitor applied. Purchase garlic from garden centers or mail order.
- Choose solid bulbs with no damage and try both hardneck and softneck types.
- Plant before freezing temperatures so the clove has time to develop roots.
- Separate cloves from the bulb and plant pointy side up 2-4 inches deep in well-drained soil high in organic matter.
- Plant cloves 6-8 inches apart and 12-18 inches between rows. Label the varieties.
- After freezing temperatures arrive, cover the planting bed with 6-12 inches of mulch, pine needles, grass clippings or leaves.
- As spring arrives, look for the green tips emerging, pull back the mulch and water regularly.
- Fertilize with a complete fertilizer (10-10-10).
- Cut off scapes on hardneck varieties when they curl downward.
- When 50% of the leaves die back in July, harvest by gently pulling on the stalk while prying 6 inches away from and beneath the bulb with a shovel.
- Gently shake off loose dirt and allow to cure for two weeks in a warm, dry, well-ventilated place.
- After curing, remove remaining soil and inspect all the bulbs. Save larger bulbs for planting in the fall and use damaged bulbs first.
- Cut off stalks and store bulbs in a cool, dry place. For softneck, stalks can be cut off or left attached for braiding.