Growing garlic – Hardneck & Softneck varieties

The first of my garlic, sown a week ago is up.  Green shoots are emerging through the soil underneath the cages I placed over them to protect them; partially from the blackbirds but mostly from my 2 year old who is a destructive force of nature.


Unlike last year when I just grew one variety of garlic, this year I have planted four, a mixture of hard and soft necked varieties.  The difference between hard and soft neck garlic is that hard neck garlic flowers and you harvest it after it has flowered and the flower stem starts to soften.  Soft neck doesn’t flower and is harvested when the plants die back.   Or at least that is what works for the varieties I have and am growing.

My first task when planting the garlic was to separate the cloves.  My understanding is that the middle cloves of soft necked garlic aren’t great for planting for bulbs, so I separated those out.  I later planted those cloves in a large pot really close together the idea being that I will use them as green garlic.  The remainder of the cloves I placed into separate bags for each variety.  This level of organisation is rare for me so I was proud enough of it to take a photo.

I even wrote on each bag how many cloves there were so I can happily report that I planted:

  • 20 Purple Monaro – a hard necked variety reputed to have 8-10 cloves per bulb.
  • 40 Italian White & Italian ‘common’-  soft necked varieties that I personally have trouble distinguishing between.  Some was from my crop from last year some I bought this year.
  •  29 cloves that mum & dad got from their food swap – its a hard necked variety (you can tell by the flower stem providing a ‘hardneck’ in the bulb.) but that’s all I know.
  • 20 Dad’s garlic which he has been growing for years so I’m not sure of the variety but its a soft neck.

I planted just over 100 cloves, with the pointy end pointing up, about 3cm deep in a 15cm grid.  Last year I planted on a 12cm grid but some of the bulbs were a bit on the small side so I decided to  space them a little further apart this year.  Having said that I have had good results using a 12cm grid so the smaller bulbs could have been something else entirely.


From now until harvest, which should be in December, these beauties should grow, and grow and grow.  I will fertilise them with fish emulsion every now and then but other than watering them if they get too dry that’s about all the attention they’ll need until harvest.  Well at least that’s what I’m hoping….

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24 Responses to Growing garlic – Hardneck & Softneck varieties

  1. You have been organised with your garlic planting!
    I often forget to label which variety it is and wish I had done when it come to harvesting so I could see which has done better…perhaps this year I will follow your good example Liz and try to be a bit more methodical!

    • Liz says:

      I’ve put in labels but I fully expect them to be moved by small hands – i should really draw a map as backup so I know which variety is which.

  2. Bwteen us we could stock a garlic stall especially as we will have bulbs forming at different times.

    • Liz says:

      Perfect, although I’m not sure I could bear to part with any….I’d be a terrible farmer I have a tendency to become very attatched to my crops.

  3. Ian says:

    I too planted some garlic last weekend – Southern Glenn and Early White. Looking today, about 90% of the Southern Glenn is up, but only about 20% of the Early White. Looking at planting more in May from the bulbs I saved from last year as my eggplant (a Japanese variety – Kamo) is still producing in that bed. Agree garlic is easy to grow, and definitely worth it as it is much better tasting than bought garlic.

  4. Norma Chang says:

    I do not have small hands to move my labels but they still somehow get displaced. Trying to be a more organized gardener this year and drew a diagram. Will see how well I keep it updated.

    • Liz says:

      The diagram is a great idea! I went out today and found all the blueberry labels on the floor. Shame as I now have no idea which is which.

  5. Wendy says:

    I just love how easy garlic is. You’ll sure have some fun digging later on!

  6. andrea says:

    Love seeing those new shoots emerging………..the promise of a such a wonderful useful, tasty crop, top on my list.

  7. Daphne says:

    I used to have three varieties that I planted. Then it was two. Last fall I only planted one. Part of me is sad about it though. I love the garlic variety and it produces very very well and gives huge cloves. But it is a hardneck so I can’t make garlic braids. At least I get lots of scapes.

    • Liz says:

      I have to say if I found the perfect variety I think I’d be tempted to grow just one too. I reckon scapes are a good compensation for not being able to braid it.

  8. Mark Willis says:

    Liz, I’m a Garlic novice, so I shall be following the progress of yours with interest. I know that in the UK Garlic is normally planted in the Autumn, but I bought a Spring-planting type (well, that’s how it was described. Whether it is actually any different I’m not really sure). Mine is now about 12″ tall and looking very healthy.
    What exactly do you mean by “green garlic”? Is that just garlic eaten before it has been dried? Got any good recipes for using it?

    • Liz says:

      Green garlic can be harvested at any point really – you can use it when it looks like spring onions when there is no bulb to speak of right up to when the bulb is almopst fully developed. I use the term to describe anything where the bulb is not fully mature. But I guess you could still call a mature undried bulb green garlic. I make a lovely broad bean and green garlic dish which I posted last year. Otherwise you can use it anywhere you would normally use garlic but I would tend to use it in dishes where you want to taste the garlic as an individual component, where the garlic isn’t cooked or is very lightly cooked.

  9. kitsapFG says:

    I love the ease of growing garlic. Such a no fuss plant for such a great crop. I have a hard neck variety (music) and a soft neck variety (silver rose) growing that were planted last fall. Grown both successfully in the past and like having a bit of both types.

    Your organization in planting is inspirational.

    • Liz says:

      Garlic is such a nice thing to grow and despite it taking up space for such a long period I don’t begrudge it that space at all.

  10. Wow, Liz! it’s impressive: I have never seen anyone planting with a measuring tape. You are such a perfect gardener! I didn’t plant any garlic this year. Last summer was too hot and most of my cold crop died, even hot season crop didn’t do well. So this year I decided to go with tomatoes, herbs, cucumbers and peppers. I hope to have some harvest…

    • Liz says:

      I have to admit this is the only crop I do sensible things like measuring for. I think because I am trying to maximise bulb size I do get fairly careful about it, with other crops though the actual size of the plants is less important so I do tend to become more careless.

  11. Louise says:

    Gosh, wonderful. I am a garlic novice, only tried to grow it once and it was less than sucessful. Thanks for the soft/hard neck distinction. I will watch and learn…

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