Stages of Growing Garlic: Explore How Garlic Grows
Growing garlic at home can be a rewarding experience that allows you to savor the freshest bulbs while reaping numerous health benefits. Fortunately for home growers, growing garlic is generally considered beginner-friendly. The only difficulty lies in when to harvest the garlic.
To ensure a successful garlic harvest, it's essential to understand the different stages of plant growth and provide the right care at each step. In this article, we'll take you through a comprehensive outline of the stages of growing garlic, along with distinct signs of each growth stage. In the end, you’ll know how to tell if the garlic is ready to harvest with ease
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Which Garlic Are You Growing
Although garlic bulbs typically contain 6 to 15 cloves that act as seeds for growing new garlic, not every clove has the potential to develop into a new bulb unless provided with the right conditions of sunlight, temperature, and nutrients.
Therefore, before you embark on your garlic-growing journey, it's suggested to choose the right garlic variety that suits your climate and preferences. For indoor growers, the most two common garlic varieties are Softneck and Hardneck garlic.
Thriving in colder climates, Hardneck garlic produces larger cloves and features a hard central stalk known as a scape, which Softneck lacks. This particular type of garlic takes a bit longer to mature compared to Softneck garlic. For optimal growth, Hardneck garlic should be best planted in late fall, allowing it to overwinter and be ready for harvesting in the next spring or early summer.
In contrast, Softneck garlic tends to grow and mature much faster than Hardneck garlic. This variety is well-suited for mild climates and offers higher yields, ideal for braiding due to its flexible stems. In terms of when to plant Softneck garlic, early fall is the best time as it allows the plant enough time to establish itself before the hotter weather arrives.
Despite the variety you grow, garlic growing patterns are pretty much the same, including germination, green garlic, scapes, young bulbs, mature bulbs, and the flowering stage. In the following, we’ll guide you through the specific timeline and signs of each stage in detail.
Stage 1: Germination
Depending on the garlic variety you choose, you can spread the seeds in spring or fall, as explained above. And the germination stage of growing garlic normally lasts 1-2 months after sowing the seeds. When the garlic germinates, you can often see tiny little green leaves stretching from the soil.
Stage 2: Green Garlic/Spring Garlic
About 7 months after planting, your garlic enters the green garlic stage, also known as the spring garlic stage. At this point, the garlic will have grown significantly, displaying long green leaves. For those who prefer a tender and fresh garlic taste, it’s actually possible to harvest the spring garlic by pulling it directly out of the ground.
However, the cloves during this phase have not fully matured and won't have the typical appearance of mature garlic cloves. To consume green garlic, remove the roots and dark green leaves, and use only the bulb, which is the white part of the shoot, and the pale greens. Meanwhile, spring garlic lacks dried skin, so you’d better finish it within a week after being harvested.
Stage 3: Scapes
In about 3 to 4 weeks after the green or spring garlic stage, here comes the scapes stage. Typically, scapes indicate that the garlic head will be ready for harvest in approximately one month.
How to identify garlic scapes? They are flower stalks found in Hardneck garlic varieties. In their early stage, they are easily recognizable due to their sturdy, often curly stems with closed, elongated, and pointed buds. If left untouched, these buds will open, forming a spherical allium flower called "bulbils."
However, allowing scapes and flowers to grow can divert the plant's energy from the bulb, which is undesirable if you aim to grow large garlic bulbs, therefore, some indoor growers will trim the scapes.
Stage 4: Young Bulbs
In 8 months, the garlic plant starts to produce a small bulb, marking the beginning of harvesting young garlic, also known as fresh garlic. As the name indicates, plants at this stage refer to those hasn't fully matured yet. You can notice a moist leathery skin covering the heads of the garlic, which would eventually grow into the typical papery outer layers of a mature garlic bulb.
To harvest young garlic, simply pull the entire plant out of the ground. Afterward, trim off the roots and leave about 2 inches of the stem above the bulb. Then you can enjoy this crisp and juicy flavor. However, similar to green garlic, it is recommended to consume the young garlic bulbs within a week or chop and freeze them for later use.
Stage 5: Mature Bulbs
After waiting for 9 months, you can harvest the fully grown garlic bulbs. Like before, you can uproot the entire plant from the ground. Garlic at this stage should have large and fully dried bulbs that are ideal for daily dishes.
Although the bulb's skin is fairly dried out in the soil, it’s recommended to place the cloves on a well-ventilated rack for a duration of one to two weeks to retain their freshness and edibility for an extended period.
Stage 6: Flowering Stage
Here comes the last stage - the flowering stage, which typically happens around the 10-month mark, indicating the completion of the growing cycle. Remember the scapes mentioned earlier? During this phase, the untrimmed scapes will develop into long stalks with tiny white flowers tinged with pink, along with small bulbils.
Once the garlic plant flowers, you can harvest the bulbils that grow at the flower's base for two purposes mainly. One is to add a pleasant garlicky flavor to the dishes, and the other is to yield new garlic plants. The only thing is you’d better not expect too much as growing garlic from bulbil seeds can be super time-consuming.
FAQs about Stages of Growing Garlic
- What does garlic look like when first growing?
In its initial stages, garlic appears as a bulb with 6 to 15 cloves inside, which act as the seeds for further growth.
- What is the reproductive cycle of garlic?
Similar to potatoes and onions, garlic reproduces through vegetative reproduction rather than sexual reproduction using seeds. When planting garlic, individual cloves are used, and each clove gives rise to a bulb containing cloves that share the same genetic makeup as the original clove.
- Why does garlic take so long to grow?
If you are growing garlic from cloves, it takes approximately 9 months for mature garlic plants. However, if you are planting garlic seeds, also known as bulbils, it requires an additional year. This extended duration is due to the seed's need to undergo germination, develop the required greenery for photosynthesis, and then progress through the bulb formation process.
- What should garlic look like?
Mature garlic should have well-formed bulbs covered in papery outer layers, while young garlic has smaller bulbs with moist, leathery skin.