October marks the time to harvest pumpkins and winter squash, leaving plenty of room in garden beds to get creative. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance and flavorful winter crop to incorporate into your winter garden and spring recipes, garlic is the perfect choice. Garlic is an important staple of almost any dish, and Davis’ Mediterranean climate lends itself perfectly to healthy plants.
There are two main subspecies of garlic: hardnecks and softnecks. Hardnecks are characterized by their stiff stalks, and large, uniform cloves. Hardnecks are praised for their deep, savory flavor and aroma, and are favored by cooks because they peel very easily. Hardneck varietals that do well in the cold, wet winters like those common in Davis and Sacramento are the German Red, Spanish Roja, Musik, Turkish Giant, and Chesnok.
- German Red
- Strong, spicy flavor. Successful in mild climate but produces particularly well in cold winters.
- Spanish Roja
- Very easy to peel and uniform cloves.
- Large size, strong hot flavor and disease resistance.
- Turkish Giant
- Famous for its “giant” cloves and is also very easy to peel.
- Known for its hardiness and ability to withstand numerous climate conditions.
Softneck varieties differ from hardnecks in that they have a more mild flavor, smaller and less uniform cloves, and a larger shelf life. They are very easy to grow because they can tolerate different climates, and do better than hardnecks in warmer weather. The softneck varieties that do particularly well in northern California are the Nootka Rose, Silver Rose, Chinese Pink and Early Italian Purple.
- Nootka Rose
- Stronger flavor than most softnecks, proven reliability in temperate climates.
- Silver Rose
- Rose-colored cloves which make it a beautiful garlic to braid.
- Chinese Pink
- Matures extra early.
- Early Italian Purple
- Large bulb, widely grown in the garlic capital Gilroy.
To plant your garlic, all you need to do is break the bulbs into individual cloves and place them about 1-2 inch deep into loose soil with high amounts of organic matter. Make sure each clove is about 4-6 inches apart. If you are planting in rows, space each row about 12-18 inches apart. After the cloves are planted, be sure to mulch the soil to lock in moisture, prevent weeds and increase nutrient delivery to the plant. Alfalfa hay is a common and affective mulch that can be bought at any feed store. Next, saturate the soil and mulch with water, add another few inches of mulch, and let it be for the winter until the tops begin to emerge in early spring.
Your garlic will be ready to harvest around May or June. You will know when it is almost time to harvest when the leaves closest to the soil begin to turn brown. Wait a few more weeks and then, carefully dig up the bulbs with a spader shovel and enjoy!