Growing Garlic in Calgary
Garlic grows very well in Calgary's climate. The requirements
garlic are fairly simple. Generally you will need a well
drained area in full sun. Garlic adapts to the environment which it
is grown in, so its performance will improve over the years as it
adjusts to your garden.
Loose, good garden soil that drains well, is best. Amending the
soil with compost or organic fertilizers is recommended before
planting especially if soil is poor (e.g. heavy clay). A small
amount of bone or fish bone meal
is beneficial when added to each planting. Liquid organic
fertilizers can be applied to garlic early in the growing
The planting area needs to be weed free as garlic does not like
heavy competition from other plants. The crop will also
require weeding throughout the season.
Garlic is usually planted in the fall after the weather turns
cold 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes - mid - September to mid
- October and harvested the following summer. Spring planting
in early April is also possible if the garlic hasn't dried out by
then. Spring-planted garlic is harvested later than fall-planted
Separate heads of garlic into cloves without damaging cloves.
Select firm cloves from nice sized, healthy bulbs to plant for next
year. When a clove of garlic is planted it will mature into a
Space cloves 6-12 inches apart. Can be planted closer (one to
four per square foot) if using the square-foot-gardening method.
The larger Porcelain varieties like Music and German White would
benefit from the larger recommended spacing. Larger spacing also
works better with poor soils. If big bulbs are desired, space
Plant cloves 3-4 inches deep. Plant deeper, 4-6
inches, if not using mulch. Remember the general bulb planting
rule: plant bulbs to a depth of about three times its diameter.
Make sure if planting the hardneck or weekly bolting hardneck
types that the pointed end of the clove is pointing up. With
softneck varieties positioning of the clove in the soil matters
If you are integrating garlic into your ornamental flower beds,
a clump may be a more attractive form than a single plant. You will
still get bulbs, but they will be smaller and some may be flattened
on the side where they push up against the other bulbs. If you
leave a bulb in the ground unharvested, it will likely come back
next year as a clump.
After the ground freezes hard in November, cover the garlic with
2-3 inches of mulch. Use mulch (that is free of weed seeds!) like
straw, alfalfa, shredded leaves, grass clippings, or fine sawdust.
If mulching heavily, do make sure to add an organic nitrogen
planting (as the mulch will rob soil of nitrogen as it breaks
If the mulch is prone to matting, loosen to allow air to
circulate. Remove some mulch if thickness of application does not
allow for soils to warm in spring. Otherwise, the garlic will grow
through and the mulch can be left on for the rest of the
Mulch helps keep the ground frozen during Calgary's variable
winters and keeps the garlic "asleep" longer in spring to help
avoid late frost damage. Mulch will also suppress weeds and retain
soil temperature and moisture levels. A garlic crop grown in
Calgary, if mulched and weeded properly, will need little
All parts of the garlic plant, except the roots and skins, are
Garlic greens - pinch off the garlic leaves and
use as needed. Pinching only one leaf from each plant will help the
garlic grow back faster. Harvesting the leaves will reduce bulb
size so we recommend harvesting from plants grown specifically for
greens. Bulbils, small rounds and tiny cloves work well for growing
Garlic scallions - pull up the entire young
garlic plant and trim off the roots. Use as you would a scallion.
Useful for thinning out bulbil / small clove plantings.
Scapes - appear in the second half of
June. They're best for eating when they are still curled and
tender. Once they start straightening out, they become woody. Cut
off the scapes an inch above the top leaf. The scapes can be
steamed, baked, or sautéed and are delicious.Generally scapes need
to be removed to aid in bulb development.
Bulbs - Harvesting times for varieties varies.
Generally harvest when 6 green leaves remain on the plant or when
40% of the plant is brown and 60% is still green. Most of the
garlic will be ready for harvest from mid July to the end of August
(try to harvest during a dry period). Stop watering a week or two
before harvest so the soil can dry out a little.
Gently remove garlic with a digging fork, brush off excess dirt,
and place in well ventilated spot to dry. Be careful not to leave
garlic out for too long in direct sun as it may burn!
Curing and Storage
Brush the dirt off the bulb or wash it off with water if really
muddy. Do not cut the tops off at this point.
Cure the bulbs by tying them in small bunches and hanging them
to dry for 10 days to 2 weeks in a well ventilated area.
You can also lay them out in a single layer to dry. When dry,
you can trim the garlic by cutting the stalk an inch or so above
the bulb and removing the roots to about ½ inch. Then carefully
remove a wrapper or two to expose the gorgeous garlic bulb
Store at room temperature, or slightly cooler, in open air.
Hanging in bunches or in a netted bag works well. If storing in
paper bags, leave the tops open or punch some air holes. Keep away
from direct sunlight.
The variety and strain, growing conditions, the number of bulb
wrappers remaining, and curing conditions will all affect how long
the garlic will store. In general, Rocambole varieties are
shorter storing, Purple Stripes varieties are medium storing and
Porcelains are longest storing.
Seed saving for garlic is easy. Select the best bulbs that you
grew, separate into cloves and replant in
the fall. Remember to label varieties if you want to know
what you have planted.