Are you a garlic lover? You know, the type who, when a recipe calls for two cloves of garlic, will put in eight? The sort who buys bulbs of garlic at the bulk store bi-weekly? The type whose homemade chicken noodle soup calls for an entire fistful of garlic chives?
If you’re this type of enthusiastic garlic aficionado, try branching out. I don’t mean to shy away from garlic, don’t worry. Rather, I mean that you should try branching out into other garlic types! There’s a whole world of alliums out there beyond the conventional, papery white bulbs you buy at your local supermarket.
Yes, my friend. With garlic chives and other alliums, you can grow a gorgeously garlicky garden that will keep you vampire-free and revelling in strong flavors all year long.
Want to learn more? Of course you do. You can never have too much garlic in your life, right?
A Wealth of Garlic
Did you know that garlic has been treasured as a healing herb for over 5,000 years? Yes, that means your garlic-loaded chicken noodle soup is more medicinal than your sister’s milder version.
Garlic is considered the ultimate cure-all for issues ranging from blood pressure to fevers. In fact, wise old healers in ancient times would rather fill a garden with garlic than any other herb.
In the modern era, you’ll want to follow their lead and fill your own little garden with garlics of all shapes and sizes. So what should you plant? Garlic chives: have you heard of them? Hard-neck garlic: the flavorful scape-producer. And of course, soft-neck garlic: the undisputed root cellar champion.
Grow all three, so your garlicky garden can be a tasty triumvirate. It’s easy, believe me: garlic is as easy to grow as dandelions. Ready to get started?
The Top Three
The three primary plants to include in your garden are garlic chives, hard-neck garlic, and soft-neck garlic. If you aren’t familiar with them yet, garlic scapes are hard-neck types’ slim flower stems, and are packed with flavor—perfect for summertime grilling.
Like traditional chives, garlic chives are among the first edible plants to poke their green heads out of the frozen ground. In early spring, your cheerful chives will turn all the boring winter fare into something fresh and new.
Whether you mix these garlicky greens into cheddar biscuits, sprinkle them on lox, or sauté them with red-skinned potatoes, they’re absolutely delicious. Garlic chives are perennial in zones 3–10: they love full sun, but they can thrive in partial sun as well.
Like other chive plants, garlic chives grow in bunches up to two feet tall and a foot wide. After a few years of growth, you may want to break up a large bunch and redistribute the chives around to encourage more growth.
Start gently harvesting your spring chives as soon as they’re about four inches tall. Just be careful not to over-pick. More consistent harvesting can start when the greens are about a foot high. You’ll love the moderate, fresh garlic flavor of these springtime herbs, and as an extra bonus, you can eat their flowers too!
Plant hard-neck garlic in the fall, just before the frost seals up your garden soil. Plant in late February if you live in a frost-free zone. Separate the cloves from a bulb of hard-neck variety garlics (I like red Russian garlic for its full flavor). Then, plant each clove about three inches deep and about six inches apart.
Mulch your garlic for the winter and let it be. In the spring, you’ll start to notice the green shoots popping up through the mulch.
Hard-neck garlic is ideal for autumn and early winter storage, is excellent for all culinary purposes, and effective for garlic-based healing recipes. The flavonoid concentration in hard-necked garlic is stronger, so it’s often slightly more effective as a healing herb.
Harvest when the tops turn yellow and begin to fall over, but before the whole plant has dried out. This usually happens around late July.
Garlic scapes are the long, serpentine flower stalks that grow from hard-neck garlic bulbs in early summer. Harvesting these scapes actually encourages your garlic plant to focus on developing its bulb. As such, harvest them when the scapes start to curl in on themselves.
You can eat garlic scapes raw: they have a very assertive flavor. They don’t taste like mild, fresh garlic chives: scapes are intensely garlicky and grassy at the same time. Sear scapes with steaks or shrimp, mince them up for garlic scape pesto, or pickle them for the ultimate Bloody Mary garnish.
Have you seen those gorgeous garlic braids? Those are made of soft-neck garlic. It’s the variety you’re most likely to find at the grocery store, and the best option for long-term storage. Like hard-neck garlic, soft-neck varieties should be planted in the fall and harvested in mid to late July.
Soft-neck varieties are often milder in flavor than hard-neck. They have smaller cloves too, with many cloves per bulb, whereas hard-neck varieties have fewer, larger cloves.
Grow both types garlic in your garden for long-term storage, as well as beautiful braids. Soft-neck garlic doesn’t produce scapes, but you’ll see similar signs at harvest time. Look for yellowing, drooping tops, and harvest the garlic before the whole aerial plant dries.
Companion Planting in the Tasty Triumvirate
You may want to dedicate an entire garden to garlic, but it’s more likely your varieties will actually be sharing space with other plants. All the garlic varieties are helpful friends in the garden. After all, these scented wonders keep away more than just vampires.
Historically, garlic was hung to keep away witches, demons, the plague, and other pests. It wasn’t just superstition either, since garlic has such powerful antibiotic and antiviral properties. In the garden, however, garlic can keep away other unwanted visitors.
Garlic Chives for Pest Control
Garlic chives are great for deterring deer, rabbits, and of course, the common plague of all gardeners: groundhogs. I like to tuck garlic chives at the corners of all my raised beds. They won’t deter goats, unfortunately (very little does…) but other greedy foragers will find more welcoming buffets.
Garlic Plants Guard Against Ticks
If you’re living in the northeast, you’ve noticed that the tick population isn’t exactly subtle. But these miniscule vampires flee from garlic just like Dracula does. In fact, ticks are downright ticked off when they come upon garlic chives, tall garlic plants, or hanging wreathes of soft-neck garlic.
Including a few rows of garlic chives, hard-neck, or soft-neck garlic throughout your garden will definitely send a message. Blood-drinkers of the world, beware.
The Garlic Triumvirate grows well with others, and share space especially well with brassicas. In addition to deterring deer, rabbits, and other wild animals, garlic chives are a great deterrent for cabbage loopers and aphids. They also improve carrots’ flavor when planted nearby.
Garlic chives’ beautiful purple flowers attract bees as well, and are great plants to encourage pollinators into the garden. Chives are actually ideal companions for almost every plant in the garden. From roses to apple trees, chives give the plants around them a helping hand. They ward away pests and boost flavors.
Additionally, both hard- and soft-neck garlics are often planted alongside strawberries and peaches. Pungent garlic drives away common pests and keeps the fruit growing strong. Like chives, garlic itself is one of the most companionable plants around.
Alliums also drive away snails, ants, aphids, Japanese beetles, and a host of other invaders. Weaving the triumvirate of garlics into your garden will help you grow a gorgeous, well-rounded harvest.
When you’re planting your garlics, take some time to plan out where they’ll go. I love putting chives along the outer edge of the garden because they’re hardy perennials. Over time, your chives will become a consistent, structural part of your garden.
Both hard- and soft-neck garlics are tall, graceful plants. As such, I like the add slim rows of garlics between short or wide plants like lettuce, radishes, carrots, and cabbages.
The garlics add an extra deterrent to rabbits and groundhogs that may have snuck in past the chives. Visually they add beautiful height to the garden. Remember when you plant that all garlics prefer full sunlight, and their full flavor develops best in full sun.
A Garlic Lover’s Dream
If you’re reading this in springtime, long after garlic-planting season is past, don’t fret! You can still jump right in. ick up a few chive seedlings, and plant your outer border of chives. You’ll notice a decrease in pests soon after the plants are in. Grab a packet or two of garlic chive seeds while you’re at it.
Then, in the fall, do some garden planning and pop your garlic cloves into the earth—pointy side up, root side down. When garlic shoots start growing in the spring, you can add in smaller plants or scatter seeds around them. By late July, when cabbages and carrots are at their peak, your garlic will be out of the way.
You’ll be amazed at just how much this delicious triumvirate of garlicy goodness will benefit your garden. Garlic isn’t just good for us—it’s good for our garden plants as well.