Spring blooms of the giant Elephant Garlic. Photos by Leslie Halleck

In The Garden: Plant Garlic Now For Spring Harvest

Fall is the ideal season for gardening. (Yes, you read that right.)

October is the perfect month for planting in Texas. Cloves must be planted in the fall in order for them to receive the required chilling to form bulbs next spring. If you want a great harvest of garlic next May, then you must get your garlic cloves planted pronto! You can purchase garlic for planting at your local garden center this time of year, where you’ll find the best varieties for our area. Don’t use garlic you buy at the grocery store, as often times they are treated with growth inhibitors to suppress sprouting, or may not be the best variety for our climate.

Finished garlic bulbs harvested in late-spring.
Finished garlic bulbs harvested in late-spring.

You’ll often see garlic categorized as either “hardneck” or “softneck”. Hard neck garlic is typically preferred for growing in cooler climates, as it is more cold-hardy. They also develop fewer individual cloves within each bulb and may be larger. The Hardneck varieties will also produce scapes, which can be harvested and cooked as a delicacy.

Softneck garlic prefers milder climates and are thus more appropriate for growing in a Texas climate. However, I’ve grown both types in my garden with good success. Softneck garlic does not produce a scape like the hardneck garlic. You can also plant elephant garlic, which produces huge bulbs that offer up a milder flavor. Technically, elephant garlic is actually in the Leek family, but because we use it like garlic, it gets lumped in.

To plant, separate garlic cloves, but don't remove the papery "tunic".
To plant, separate garlic cloves, but don’t remove the papery “tunic”.

Once you’ve purchased your planting garlic, take your garlic bulbs and split it into individual cloves, but don’t remove the protective tunic that protects the clove. Plant each clove about one- to two-inches deep and about three- to six-inches apart in a sunny location in well-amended soil. I’ll follow up next spring to teach you how and when to harvest!

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