Garlic isn’t hard to grow. It has a few important requirements that you can easily meet. These include decent soil, adequate moisture, and, of course, planting and harvesting at the right time. Here are a few basics that will guide you:
Choosing your garlic
There are three types of garlic: Stiffneck, Softneck and Great-headed (Elephant). These three have several different varieties. Most types take about 90 days for you to harvest while others can take up to nine months.
Softneck varieties, like their name suggests, have necks that stay soft after harvest, and therefore are the types that you see braided. These are highly recommended for Zambian weather. They are strong intense flavor.
Stiffneck varieties grow one ring of cloves around a stem. Also, they don’t have layer of cloves as there are in softneck varieties. They are also very cold hardy, but do not store as long as the other varieties. They have a milder than softnecks.
Great-headed varieties are not recommended. They are not hard and are closely related to leeks than other varieties. Their flavor is more like onion than traditional garlic. They have large bulbs and cloves with about 4 cloves to a bulb.
Do not plant cloves from the grocery store. This is because most are treated to make their shelf life longer, making them harder to grow.
Garlic grows under a wide variety of soil conditions. However, it grows better in free draining loam with lots of organic matter. Build up your soil with green manure. Also, it s good practice to cover crops as part of your normal crop rotation. The best choices before planting are Compost and composted manure.
You can plant garlic in single rows or double rows. They have to be in wide beds of four to six plants across with four to eight inches between plants. Also, try to use tighter spacing in the beds as this will produce a greater number of smaller bulbs for a higher total yield in terms of kgs of garlic per square foot of garden.
It is important to plant hard neck garlic with the top (pointed end) of the clove up, at least two inches below the surface. When you have planted the garlic, cover it with a layer of mulch (Chopped leaves, swamp grass, reeds).Grass hay is fine if you don’t mind lots of grass seed in your soil. Mulching conserves moisture, moderates soil temperatures and inhibits weeds. Garlic doesn’t like extreme heat and mulch will moderate the daily fluctuations in summer soil temperatures.
Watering garlic is an art. Garlic requires fairly even soil moisture during the growing season with no additional moisture during the last few weeks. When there isn’t enough moisture, the garlic doesn’t develop a full sized bulb. Also, over watering results in garlic with poor keeping qualities – poor wrappers,mold and burst skins. Furthermore, it’s harder to cure garlic that has been over watered.