Gardening for Life!

Become a Member



 

Growing Garlic in Calgary

Garlic grows very well in Calgary's climate. The requirements of
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.

Garlic _Fort Calgary

Soil

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 season. 

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.

Planting

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 garlic.

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 bulb.

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 further apart.

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 less.   

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.

Mulching

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 fertilizer when
planting (as the mulch will rob soil of nitrogen as it breaks down).

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 season.

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 supplementary watering.

Harvesting

All parts of the garlic plant, except the roots and skins, are edible.

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 greens.

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 beneath.

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 Garlic

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.