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How to choose the best garlic cloves for planting – just follow these tips!
Here’s the fourth (and last) installment in the How to Plant Garlic series and this part focuses on how to choose the best garlic cloves for planting. The first article can be found here; Part 2 here; Part 3 here.
Here in Canada, we plant garlic (Allium sativum) in the Fall before the ground freezes. This allows the garlic cloves to settle in and even grow a few roots. Then when the cold weather comes, the cloves go dormant for the winter, then begin to grow early in the Spring.
Choosing the best cloves for planting goes a long way in growing large garlic bulbs! Here is information on hardneck garlic, plus sorting garlic bulbs and choosing cloves for replanting.
What are the Best Garlic Cloves for Planting?
There are two types of garlic that can be used for planting – hardneck garlic and softneck garlic. Here in Canada, we grow the hardneck varieties of garlic, because they do well with a cold period, meaning a cold winter.
Softneck varieties, such as Silverskins, grow well in southern climates, where they do much better than the hardneck type. The softneck type of garlic is not covered here, as we cannot grow that here.
Hardneck types that grow well in Canada and northern USA include:
- Purple Stripe
- Porcelains – Yugoslavian and Music
- Chesnok Red
- Fish Lake
Elephant garlic is actually not a type of garlic at all; it is one of the varieties of leeks!
Read through the prior installments (see above) that will explain everything about harvesting and curing garlic.
We begin sorting the best looking garlic bulbs when hanging them for curing. The nice big bulbs get hung together, while the smaller bulbs get hung together. These smaller bulbs will be eaten over the Winter (Spring & Summer too, because I plant so many heads).
The nice big bulbs are the ones set aside for seed for next years garlic harvest. We usually hang my garlic bulbs in groups of 10 using nylon rope. This makes for easier counting of the bundles and finding the total number of bulbs we brought to harvest. A looped rope goes around the stalk, tying up the leaves and stem.
It’s important to plant the largest, nicest looking cloves, if you are trying to improve your garlic harvests.
Since we sell some bulbs, it’s in our best interest to ensure that as many of the bulbs as possible are big and beautiful! If you plant small, misshapen cloves you will get garlic heads full of small misshapen cloves.
It’s logical – if you are always trying to improve your harvests (and you are, aren’t you?) then always use your biggest and best. That way, you will get more of those biggest and best heads!
Choosing the Best Garlic Cloves for Planting
Once the garlic is cured, the stalks are cut from the bulbs, the roots are trimmed with garden shears and the bulbs are put into boxes. At this point, you can either start splitting the heads or just set the box aside for a couple of weeks. You will find it is easier to split the bulbs into cloves if the bulbs are drier.
Breaking Open Garlic Bulbs into Cloves
When you are ready to start busting the bulbs open, grab a couple of empty boxes and get started. Carefully open up all the heads and separate the individual cloves.
Put the nice big garlic cloves in one box – these are the bulbs that will be replanted in the garden. (The planting will take place around late September, in order for us to have lots of fresh Garlic next August.)
Smaller cloves go in another box for storage over the winter. These will end up in our kitchen where they will get roasted in the oven or put in tin foil on the barbecue.
I’ll use them when I make Bacon Garlic Bites or add them to my jars of Homemade Pickled Asparagus. Look at these beautiful garlic cloves – these are the ones that will be replanted for harvesting garlic next year.
You can get a good idea of the clove size in the photo above. That’s a standard sized tape measure – those cloves are quite large.
Ready for replanting? Head over to Growing Garlic Part 1, for all the planting information you need. Information in that post includes:
- planting depth for each individual clove
- fertilizing with blood meal
- side-dress cloves with well composted manure and compost to add nitrogen to the soil
- mulching with straw to keep weeds from growing
- cutting off the flowering stalks of each garlic plant (here this happens in late June or early July)
Is Store Bought Garlic Good for Planting?
It depends! Often, garlic bulbs bought at the grocery store have been sprayed with chemicals. It is very important to buy organic garlic bulbs from a reputable nursery. You can also find organic unsprayed bulbs at the farmers market.
Be sure to ask if the plants have been sprayed with chemicals. Organic sprays such as fish fertilizer is fine; this is a chemical free spray that helps with bulb growth.
What Type of Garlic is the Healthiest?
Any variety of garlic that is organically grown is a healthy garlic! Tip: You may find grocery store garlic has all of its roots shaved off. If the base of the bulb is completely root free and clean, it can be assumed that those bulbs have been sprayed.
The reason for the shaved base is that countries do not allow garlic to be imported with roots, as there is a greater chance of dirt coming in on those roots. This dirt may possible contaminate the soil in which they will now be planted.
What is the Difference Between Seed Garlic and Eating Garlic?
There is no difference between seed and eating garlic. Usually, smaller bulbs and cloves are used for eating and the larger cloves are reserved for replanting.
What Month is Best to Plant Garlic?
The ideal time for planting garlic depends on the climate where you live. Here in Zone 3 (Canada) we plant garlic in late September or early October. We always aim to have garlic planted before the middle of October.
It is best if the cloves are planted early enough that they can form some root growth, but not too early so that the leaves start growing tall.
If the weather is unusual and top growth begins, your plants will still be fine. Just cover them with mulch once the cold weather starts.
How Do You Grow Garlic for Beginners?
This information can be found in Part 1 of this series – then continue reading the different articles in the series to get all the information, right from growing through harvesting and curing.
I hope these posts all about growing garlic are a help to you. Garlic is easy to grow and takes up hardly any room at all. Even if you live in an apartment, you can easily plant 20 or 30 heads of garlic in a few pots or growing bags, so do it!
Backyard garlic growers love the strong fresh flavor of homegrown garlic! Plus, garlic is a very powerful natural antibiotic as well as an antioxidant.
Have you learned more about growing garlic from this series of posts? Feel free to share this article!
How to Grow Garlic Articles:
How to Plant Garlic – garlic bed preparation, spacing and garlic planting information
What to do with Garlic Scapes – and why you really do need to remove them
How to Harvest and Cure Garlic – from digging to hanging garlic for curing.
Find your best garlic cloves for planting – then get them in the soil this Fall for bulbs next August.
Want to find out which are The 5 Easiest Vegetables to Grow?
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originally published October 2019; latest update January, 2023