October is the perfect time for Texans to plant spring-flowering bulbs. It’s also the right time to add garlic to the garden for fresh garlic in the coming year.
Garlic is divided into two groups: hardnecks and softnecks. Hardneck garlic sends up a stiff flower stalk. This group is best suited to colder regions. Softneck garlic does not send up a flower stalk and never develop a woody stem. These garlics grow better the warmer Texas climate.
There are many varieties of softneck garlic but these four are among the most popular:
- California Early is the garlic most commonly sold in grocery stores. It’s a reliable performer in the garden.
- The heads of French Red contain 7-9 large cloves inside a purple streaked outer skin.
- Silver Rose produces 12-15 rose colored cloves with a white outer skin and is a popular variety in France.
- Polish Softneck produces large heads of cloves with a hot flavor. It is more cold hardy than most softnecks.
Whichever variety you choose, planting garlic is not hard. Try these four easy steps to a successful crop in your edible garden:
- Plant in late October about 6 weeks before the first frost in your area.
- Plant garlic in a loose, well-drained soil. To avoid soil-borne disease or pests, don’t plant garlic in the same spot where it or other members of the Allium family (onions, shallots, leeks) have grown in the last two years.
- On planting day, separate the cloves by “cracking” the head. Plant cloves, pointed end up, about two inches deep and 4-5 inches apart.
- Once the cloves are planted, keep the soil moist but not soggy until the tips break the surface. Then water as you would any other garden vegetables – at least an inch a week.
Garlic requires 8-9 months to mature. During the growing season use a good 10-10-10 balanced fertilizer to encourage head formation. Stay on top of the weeding in your garlic plot. Garlic has shallow roots and does not grow dense enough to shade the soil, making it easy for weeds to crowd it out.