Kansas City Community Gardens offers two types of garlic:
- Softneck garlic is generally more productive than hardneck garlic and stores for longer, but it is mostly grown in California so it is not as hardy in our area. This garlic will have a similar appearance and taste to what you purchase in the grocery store.
- Hardneck garlic bulbs are larger, with a smaller number of individual cloves. The hardneck is more cold hardy and has a stronger, spicier flavor. Hardneck garlic will produce a seed scape – a thick round stem that emerges from the bulb in late spring. This seed scape will curl around and have a flower on the end. The seed scape should be trimmed off as soon as you see it so that the plant will put its energy into sizing up the garlic bulb instead of producing a flower and seeds.
Garlic is generally planted between Nov. 15 and Dec. 15, when it is late enough to prevent sprouting, but early enough to avoid frozen ground. After cleaning out your schoolyard garden for the winter, scope out a space for your garlic. Try to avoid planting in the same spot where garlic or onions have been planted in the previous three years. Keep in mind that you will not be able to plant any spring or summer veggies where you plant your garlic. Garlic needs full sun and likes soil that drains well, so it is perfect for raised beds!
To plant garlic, separate the cloves from the bulb. Do not peel the individual cloves. Plant the garlic cloves with the root part down and the tip facing the sky, 2-3 inches deep, about 4-6 inches apart from each other. Water the garlic after planting, and whenever the soil is dry. After planting, add 3 to 4 inches of straw mulch on top of the garlic.
In the springtime (usually early May), fertilize the garlic by sprinkling chicken manure fertilizer or Age Old Grow around the base of the plants. If the garlic produces a scape (hard neck varieties), cut it off.
The garlic will ready to be harvested in June, when the leaves start to turn yellow but before the plant dies completely. You will want to pull the garlic, rather than dig it up, and avoid harvesting on a wet day. If you leave the garlic in the ground too long, the cloves will start to sprout.
Garlic can be stored for several months in a dry room. Trim off the roots and the neck to keep it from drying out, and let the garlic cure for at least 2 weeks before using.