Our heirloom garlic curing in a drying shed.

Our heirloom garlic curing in a drying shed.

Can I plant garlic from the grocery store and still get a good crop?

Garlic found at most groceries won't work well for planting purposes. Most groceries sell imported garlic that's been irradiated or sprayed with a chemical retardant to keep it from sprouting. Even the stores that carry organic garlic tend to buy it from places where the garlic's been sitting in a warehouse for a year--which means you're buying old seed. You need fresh seed that hasn't been treated to grow the good garlic.

How much garlic will a pound of garlic seed produce?

By weight, one pound of hardneck garlic can produce five to seven pounds of garlic at harvest. A pound of softneck garlic, by contrast, can produce six to 10 pounds of garlic at harvest. It all depends on growing conditions and on how quickly the garlic adapts to your soil conditions. Some garlic can take a couple of years before it acclimates. Most of those we grow adapted quickly to our soil and growing conditions.

I don't have loamy soil. Can I successfully plant garlic?

Absolutely! Our Kentucky soil is packed with clay, and we've successfully grown garlic for several years. The trick to planting garlic in less-than-perfect soil: rich organic amendments. 

What kind of soil amendments do you recommend?

Composted manure, shredded leaves, cottonseed meal, lime and other organic materials make great soil amendments for growing garlic. Cover crops like buckwheat and oats also add rich organic matter to soil. Get a soil test to see what nutrients your soil needs to grow garlic, then add your amendments. Your county ag agent should be able to do a soil test at low cost.

I live in a warm agricultural zone (8-10). Can I grow garlic?

You can definitely grow garlic in warmer zones. You just have to find the right variety for your zone. Turban, Asiatic and Creole garlics grow well in warm weather areas, as do many artichoke garlics. Ask us what we have available that could work for your climate.

What's the best time to plant garlic?

You can plant garlic at almost any time of year. It all depends on what you're trying to accomplish. If you're looking to grow big, healthy bulbs, you want to plant your garlic in the fall. That gives the garlic time to overwinter and vernalize to form cloves. You can also plant garlic in late winter or early spring; the bulbs, however, will be smaller in size. Spring-grown garlic is also wonderful for green garlic. 

What kinds of garlic produce scapes?

Any hardneck garlic will produce scapes. Cut the scapes when they first begin to make a loop ard are still tender. You can then use them in cooking as a substitute for green onions or garlic. You can also use scapes to make pesto or simply grill them with a bit of salt and olive oil to use as a vegetable side dish.

Hardneck garlic, by the way, can only be found at farmers' markets or through small garlic growers like us. Hardneck garlic has a shorter shelf life, so it's not commercially viable for larger growers who sell to retail markets.

What happens if I don't cut the scapes and let them continue to grow?

The scapes will produce small seeds, called bulbils. You can replant the bulbils, and in two to three seasons, you'll have full-sized garlic bulbs with distinct cloves. Bulbils can also be used in cooking. Add them raw for a garlic pop in salads, or use a handful to substitute for garlic cloves in a recipe. 

How should I store my garlic?

Store your cured garlic in a dry, cool, dark area. Exposing garlic to light will cause it to sprout and shorten its shelf life. Storing garlic in the refrigerator will also cause it to sprout.  Storing your garlic in a pantry, in a kitchen drawer, or even in a paper bag kept away from sunlight should work.