Common Name: Garlic
Botanical Name: Allium sativum
Type and Use: Herbaceous perennial with edible flowers, leaves and cloves
Location: Full sun to partial shade
Planting Dates: Fall is best, but can be planted in the spring. In Dallas, I plant between October 1 - October 15.
Planting Methods: Cloves or bulblets
Seed Emergence: 7-14 days
Harvest Time: Varies, but should be done as the leaves start to turn brown. It’s bad advice to wait until the tops turn brown and fall over. At that point the bulbs will be over-mature and often split open like a flower. At this point, food value will begin to diminish. Garlic can’t be stored in the ground as onions can. Watering too long or too wet soil will cause bulbs to rot. Days to harvest range from 90 to 180.
Height: 12 inches - 4 feet, some even taller
Spread: 6 inches
Final Spacing: 4 - 6 inches
Growth Habits: Considerable variance in the various subspecies. Some have flower heads and some don’t. I think garlic is a beautiful plant and useful in the landscape garden, herb garden, and vegetable garden.
Culture: Easy to grow in healthy soil. Good drainage is essential so raised beds, rows or hills are best. Fertilize at least twice with an organic fertilizer and spray at least monthly with Garrett Juice.
Using (hopefully, organically grown) large bulbs, separate into individual cloves and plant them in prepared soil, 1 inch deep in clay soil, 2 inches deep in sandy soil. Point up is the best but, I’m usually going too fast and lay the cloves on their sides. Soaking the cloves in seaweed and water before planting is helpful. Putting cornmeal in the soil at planting also helps, especially if your garden soil is not alive and healthy yet. Water the cloves in and then cover with about 1 1/2 inches compost.
The garlic sprouts will emerge within a few weeks and the plants will continue to grow into the winter in the southern states. A little browning of the leaf tips is normal. On nights of hard freeze, you can cover the planting with floating row cover.
Increase the thickness of the mulch as the plants grow to maintain perfect soil conditions. Every garden should have plants of garlic. It’s easy to grow and one of the most useful plants in the world.
Troubles and Solutions: Few problems, if any, when planted in healthy soil and at the right time of the year.
Harvest and Storage: Garlic should be cured slowly indoors, in low humidity, not in wind rows in the garden. Dig the bulbs when the leaves begin to turn brown in the summer and store in a cool, dry place. In order to avoid diseases, bruising and other causes of spoilage, the bulb wrappers should cover the cloves. A good rule of thumb is to harvest the bulbs when the top has at least 5 leaves. Each leaf represents a bulb wrapper. Each brown leaf means a dead or decaying bulb wrapper. When wrappers are damaged or gone, the garlic cloves are not necessarily ruined, but they are possibly injured and in danger of spoilage. Do now wash the bulbs, and do not trim off the roots and tops.
Harvest Time: Varies, but should be done as the leaves start to turn brown. It’s bad advice to wait until the tops turn brown and fall over. At that point the bulbs will be over-mature and often split open like a flower. At this point, food value will begin to diminish. Garlic can’t be stored in the ground as onions can. Days to harvest range from 90 to 180.
For larger bulbs, cut the flower stalk off as soon as it starts to emerge. The second method is to let the flower grow up and to cut it off before opening. Then hang it upside down to dry and use as dry arrangement material. The third method is to allow the seed heads to mature and open. Collect the small bulblets before they scatter or you’ll have garlic everywhere. When the leaves first begin to turn yellow on the tips in early summer, the bulbs are ready for harvest. Don’t wait until the entire top is brown, because energy and food value is used up as the foliage deteriorates. Dig the garlic out gently with a turning fork. You can cut the tops off or tie or braid them and hang in the garage or a partially shaded place to dry. Store in a cool, dry area. Use your garlic freely but save some of the larger bulbs for the next year’s planting.
Culinary Uses: Garlic leaves and cloves are great for eating and for seasoning various foods including vegetables, meats, sauces, gravies, soups and just about anything else. Try the young leaves in scrambled eggs and try garlic powder on most any meat dish. Fresh garlic is even better. If you are worried about garlic breath, chew on a few fresh leaves of parsley or sweet basil. The high chlorophyll content of these herbs will neutralize the garlic smell. Of course, if everyone eats garlic, no one will notice the smell.
Medicinal Uses: Garlic is taken for the prevention and treatment of colds and bronchitis. It is said to help also treat lead poisoning, help normalize blood pressure, kill bacteria, detoxify blood, and is a natural antibiotic. Garlic is said to increase endurance and to be useful in easing the pain of earaches, removing skin blemishes, and of course – warding off vampires!
Landscape Uses: Garlic is a beautiful ornamental plant or for use in mass plantings or intersperse in the perennial or rose garden.
Other Uses: Deters many insect pests. For mosquito control - pour or spray garlic oil into standing water, stagnant ponds and other wet breeding spots. It will control mosquito larvae quite well. Spraying the air with garlic tea works as well as the toxic chemicals to get rid of flying adults. Mosquitoes can also be repelled for approximately 20 days by broadcasting dry granulated garlic at about 1 lb. per 1000 square feet.
General Insect Control: Organic gardeners for years have interplanted garlic among ornamental landscape plants as well as food crops to ward off various pests. Tomatoes seldom have spider mite problems when garlic is planted nearby. On the other hand, garlic is reported to slow the growth of beans and peas. Garlic tea sprayed on plant foliage before heavy insect infestations works as a powerful repellent to most problem insects and many diseases. Gardeners use garlic tea by pouring it on fire ant mounds, and claims excellent results. When hot pepper oil is added to the garlic, it becomes a mild but effective broad-spectrum pest repellent.
Fungicidal Control: Garlic has significant fungicidal powers. It will aid significantly in the control of anthracnose, powdery mildew, downy mildew, rust, tomato blight, brown rot on stone fruit, and other disease problems. Even the scientists like Charles L. Wilson with the US Department of Agriculture report that members of the garlic and pepper families have effective fungicidal components.
Insight: Garlic is one of the world’s most health giving foods, an important medicinal herb, a key ingredient in homemade insect spray, and a good looking landscape plant. Garlic should be a staple of every garden. Cloves are great for seasoning all kinds of foods or for roasting and eating whole. Young garlic greens are prized by cooks and chefs for use as a chive-like garnish for numerous dishes, including garlic pesto. Besides tasting good there is scientific evidence confirming the health benefits of garlic.
Notes: Giant garlic, also called elephant garlic, Allium scorodoprasum, has milder flavor than true garlic and produces a fist size bulb. It is actually a leek, but its culture is the same. Garlic can grow botulisms when stored in oil too long. It is best to use garlic oil soon after making. Garlic is too “hot” for those with gastrointestinal problems.
For larger bulbs, cut the flowering stems as they emerge from the foliage. Giant garlic or elephant garlic is actually a leek and has a milder flavor than true garlic. Chew fresh leaves of parsley or sweet basil to cure "garlic breath." The high chlorophyll content helps to neutralize the garlic odor. Garlic tea is an excellent insect control.
Using garlic as an ornamental plant is often overlooked. I plant garlic in the perennial beds, the herb garden, and even in pots because I like the way it looks. The foliage is dark green and the flowers are dramatic. Just don’t let the flower heads mature and scatter or you will have garlic everywhere!
Varieties: Texas White, Elephant.