Garlic is said to add flavor to savory dishes and the best garlic usually grows in especially warm regions. Old wives’ tales suggest that garlic will purify the blood and battle acne. Science has proven that garlic fosters antibiotic activity, which can help your body battle a number of illnesses. Other tests show it helps in the battle against diabetes, too!
With all those benefits, why wouldn’t you want some garlic in your garden? In fact, overwintering it is a relatively simple process where a gardener protects a plant, seed, tuber or bulb so it can wait out a winter season before restarting its growth cycle when the weather improves.
Garlic, like onions and spinach, is a cold-tolerant and hardy plant that overwinters very well. Hardneck varieties are best for overwintering garlic, rather than the typical softneck supermarket varieties that you may be most familiar with. German Extra-Hardy garlic will store up to ten months, while Chesnok Red is best for baking and roasting.
Plant your garlic cloves in well-drained soil before the ground freezes. Place cloves flat-side down and pointed-side up in the soil. Cover with compost and a protective layer of straw. Consider adding leaves in so they break down and provide nutrients through the overwintering process. Garlic does not need the external protective structures, like polytunnels or greenhouses, like spinach and onions.
Once the last frost passes you are able to begin removing layers of straw from your garlic garden bed. Your garlic will begin to develop scapes, which indicate flowering is near. Cut them from the plants before they flower to energize bulb growth. Continue watering your garlic plants until their leaves begin to brown.
Once stems begin to collapse you can determine if your garlic is ready to harvest. Carefully dig in to check bulb size to see if it is on target with your variety. Don’t let bulbs sit underground too long or they will begin to rot. Once you remove bulbs you can use fresh cloves for cooking or store them for up to 9 or so months for use throughout the year.
Save a few cloves to repeat the process all over again next year!