garlic growing

How to grow garlic in Canada, now that you’ve planted (See our post on planting garlic here) and waited all winter, here are some tips on growing and harvesting hardneck garlic in Canada.

Growing hardneck garlic.

Once springtime comes, and all the garlic you planted in the fall starts coming up, you may wonder what is next. First of all, remember that hardneck garlic is a hardy crop and can handle multiple touches of frost in the spring after it starts growing.

garlic covered in snow
A spring snowfall covers this garlic.

Hardneck garlic varieties can handle frosts of down to -10 celsius. We have had snow and harsh weather in the spring, and while a hard frost may stunt the growth of your garlic plants, they are hardy enough to stay alive through some rough weather. So don’t worry too much if you see a cold spell coming.

For optimal growth on your garlic plants, keep in mind that garlic does not like to be overly wet, so err on the dry side. Irrigate as needed and do not allow to dry out completely. Keeping your garlic weed-free is essential to ensuring a good crop. Be sure to check for weeds a least once a week and remove them when they are small, so they don’t get a chance to seed and make your life difficult. Don’t allow the weeds to get out of control as this could ruin your crop; the weeds will steal essential nutrients from your garlic plants.

garlic scapes
Freshly harvested garlic scapes.

Removing scapes from your garlic. In the middle to end of June, you will begin to see garlic scapes emerge. Remove the garlic scapes as soon as they emerge; if you want to promote considerable bulb growth. The scapes will take essential nutrients from the garlic bulb. Garlic scapes are edible and are useful for many things. We like to harvest the scapes and freeze them in large bags for further use in your favourite recipes; you can also dehydrate them if you prefer.

Not removing your garlic scapes. If you want to grow bulbils for planting in the future, do not remove the scapes when they emerge; instead, wait till the scapes produce bulbils and then harvest them to plant in the fall. Not removing the scapes will result in a smaller bulb, but it is an excellent way to build your crop. Each plant will grow 30-100 bulbils. Bulbils are a direct clone of your garlic plant and will take 2-3 years to produce a good garlic bulb. The first year after planting a bulbil, it will produce a small onion-like bulb with no cloves; plant this again, and in the second year, you will have a small functioning garlic bulb. Your garlic bulbs will reach a large size in the third year of planting. Keep in mind that this is only applicable to hardneck garlic varieties.

Harvesting garlic in Canada.

When is it time to harvest? For Canadian growing, the early symptoms of harvesting are when the bottom leaves start to dry up and die in mid-July. Once 3-4 bottom leaves per plant are dead, it is time to harvest! When harvesting, keep the leaves on the plant and hang them to dry. Hang them to dry in a well-ventilated area with protection from rain for 2-3 weeks until leaves are completely dead and dried out. Once dry, remove the stems and roots and store your garlic.

Storing your garlic. After drying the garlic, it’s time to store it. For optimal longevity of garlic, bulbs store them in a well-ventilated environment at approximately 12 degrees Celsius. If garlic is kept in optimal conditions, it can last up to 8 months from harvest.

To sum it up.

  • Garlic will emerge in spring from a fall planting
  • Keep garlic weed free
  • Irrigate as needed, erring on the dry side.
  • Remove scapes when they emerge (In mid June)
  • Harvest when 3-4 bottom leaves are dead on garlic plant.
  • After harvesting hang to dry for 2-3 weeks.
  • Once dried, cut off stem and roots.
  • Store in a well ventilated area at 12 celcuis for ultimate longevity.
  • Enjoy your garlic as needed!

I hope this helps you to be confident in growing garlic in Canada. All our garlic is grown in Southern Alberta, so keep in mind that the timelines may differ in other Canada regions.

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