6 Stages of Garlic Growth Every Gardener Should Know

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Garlic, the humble kitchen staple, has a fascinating road from clove to bulb. For anyone who loves gardening or just fresh garlic, knowing the growth stages is essential.

Let’s break down the process of growing garlic, ensuring your garden produces the most flavorful bulbs.

Stage Duration Description
1. Germination 1-2 Months The cloves begin germination after planting.
2. Green Garlic (Spring Garlic) Spring (variable) Garlic sprouts green shoots, known as spring garlic.
3. Scapes After Green Garlic Stage Curly stems with buds appear, indicating active growth in hardneck garlic varieties.
4. Young Bulbs 8 months The garlic develops into less mature bulbs.
5. Mature Bulbs 9 months Garlic bulbs fully mature, and leaves start to brown and fall over.
6. Flowering Stage 10 months Garlic plants produce flowers if scapes are left untrimmed.

Timing is Everything When Planting Garlic

Garlic planting stages

The ideal time to plant garlic depends on the variety. Autumn varieties should be planted from October to December, while spring varieties go into the ground from January to March.

If space is tight or the ground is frozen, planting garlic in pots is a smart move.

Stage 1: Germination (1-2 Months)

Once planted, garlic cloves begin the germination process. This stage lasts about 1-2 months. Ensure regular watering during this period, as moisture is crucial for sprouting.

Stage 2: Green Garlic (Spring Garlic)

As spring arrives, the garlic sprouts into green shoots. This stage, often called spring garlic, is when the plant is actively growing.

The green garlic can be harvested and used in cooking for a milder garlic flavor.

Stage 3: Scapes

Garlic growth cycle

For those growing hardneck garlic, scapes will appear next. Scapes are sturdy, curly stems with elongated buds.

They’re not just an indicator that harvest time is approaching; scapes are also a delicious treat. They can be used in various dishes or even pickled.

Stage 4: Young Bulbs

At about 8 months, the garlic reaches the young bulb stage. These bulbs are less mature but can still be harvested. They should be used within a week or frozen to retain freshness.

Stage 5: Mature Bulbs

After roughly nine months, the garlic bulbs mature. This is the stage where the leaves start to brown and fall over.

It’s crucial to stop watering about two weeks before harvesting to avoid fungal issues. When harvesting, dig carefully to avoid damaging the bulbs.

Stage 6: Flowering Stage

Garlic leaf growth

If scapes are left untrimmed, the garlic plant will enter its final stage, producing flowers. This happens around 10 months.

While most gardeners trim the scapes to focus energy on the bulb, letting the plant flower can be a beautiful addition to the garden or a greenhouse.

Preparing to Plant Garlic

First off, garlic needs plenty of sunshine and well-drained soil. Regular watering and diligent weed removal are key.

And remember, garlic plays well with most plants, but it can be a bad neighbor to asparagus, peas, beans, sage, and parsley.

Types of Garlic

Choosing the right type of garlic is the first step. Hardneck garlic has a stronger flavor and thrives in colder climates.

Softneck varieties are more productive and have a longer shelf life, making them suitable for milder regions.

  • Hardneck Garlic: Best planted in late fall, thrives in cold climates, and produces scapes.
  • Softneck Garlic: Best planted in early fall, suitable for milder climates, and has a longer shelf life.

Harvesting and Storing Garlic

Once harvested, garlic needs to be dried in a shady, dry place for about two weeks. After drying, store the bulbs in a cool, dark place. Properly stored garlic can last several months, ensuring a steady supply for your culinary needs.

Common Issues and Solutions

Gardening isn’t without challenges, and garlic has its share of issues:

  • Birds: Use netting to protect young plants.
  • Rust: Ensure good air circulation and avoid overhead watering.
  • Onion Fly: Rotate crops and use insect netting.
  • Stem and Bulb Eelworm: Plant resistant varieties and practice crop rotation.

Tips for Success

  • Regular Watering: Essential in the early stages but avoid in the last two weeks before harvest.
  • Weed Control: Keeps the garlic healthy and strong.
  • Proper Spacing: Ensures each plant gets enough nutrients.

FAQs

What happens during the germination stage?
During germination, garlic cloves sprout roots and shoots. This stage occurs a few weeks after planting and is crucial for establishing the plant.
How can I identify the young bulb stage?
The young bulb stage occurs when the garlic plant starts forming small, immature bulbs underground. This happens in the mid to late growing season and indicates that the plant is progressing well.
When is garlic considered mature, and how can I tell?
Garlic is considered mature when the bulbs have fully formed and the lower leaves start to yellow and die back. This typically occurs in the late summer or early fall.
What is the flowering stage, and should I allow my garlic to flower?
The flowering stage occurs when the garlic plant produces a flower head. It’s generally advisable to remove the flower stalks (scapes) to prevent the plant from diverting energy away from bulb formation.
How do I know when to harvest garlic?
Garlic is ready to harvest when most of the leaves have turned brown, but a few green leaves remain. This ensures that the bulbs are mature but not overripe. Harvesting typically takes place in late summer to early fall.
Can garlic be planted in both spring and fall?
While garlic can be planted in both spring and fall, fall planting is preferred for most varieties. Fall-planted garlic establishes roots before winter and produces larger bulbs in the following summer.
How should I prepare my garlic for storage after harvest?
After harvesting, garlic should be cured by hanging it in a dry, well-ventilated area for a few weeks. Once the outer layers are dry, trim the roots and leaves, and store the bulbs in a cool, dry place.

Final Thoughts

Growing garlic is a rewarding experience. From the initial planting in fall or spring, through the various growth stages to the final harvest, each step brings you closer to delicious, home-grown garlic.

It doesn’t matter if you’re planting hardneck or softneck varieties, following these guidelines will certainly help ensure a bountiful and flavorful crop.