Most people know garlic as garlic. It was the same for me, until I discovered there are two types of garlic, softneck garlic and hardneck garlic. Now, planting the hardneck variety in my home garden is one of my favorite fall activities.
I prefer planting hard neck garlic for several reasons, one being this variety offers an added bonus – garlic scapes. Today I’m sharing in more detail what garlic scapes are, how to plant and grow hardneck garlic and why this is the garlic you should plant.
What is Hardneck Garlic?
There are two types of garlic: softneck garlic and hardneck garlic. The latter is more popular to grow in climates with a hard winter. Hardneck garlic has a thick stem in the middle of the bulb. It also forms garlic scapes in the summer, which can be harvested and eaten.
Garlic scapes are long thin stalks produced by the garlic plant once it begins to flower. The scapes are removed and often sold at farmer’s markets. They can be used to make pestos, dips, soup and used in stir fry, among other recipes.
Basically the garlic scapes are a milder version of a garlic clove, and incredibly tasty and versatile. I also freeze some so they can be used throughout the year.
What’s great about hardneck garlic is you get to not only enjoy the garlic harvest itself but also the scapes. To me, it’s like getting two harvests for the price of one.
Hardneck vs Softneck Garlic
Like many new gardeners I didn’t know there were different types of garlic. The first year I grew garlic in my garden I grew softneck garlic. This was around 2013 or so. Softneck garlic is planted in the spring, harvested the same season and does not produce garlic scapes.
I purchased this garlic at a local garden center in the spring. It is actually readily available to purchase where I live and it’s fine to grow during the warm season.
If you want to stagger your harvest or simply want to grow a lot of garlic, growing both varieties is a good idea. The garlic tasted fine but I felt like for the price I paid for the cloves (you plant garlic cloves from the bulb as “seeds) I might as well buy hardneck garlic and receive the added bonus of garlic scapes!
I also learned around this time that it’s very difficult to find and purchase hardneck garlic at the local garden centers in my region. I am in Cleveland, Ohio. Below are photos of the garlic scapes once they are harvested from the hardneck garlic.
This usually occurs in June in Northern Ohio. In the second photo you can see what happens if you wait too long to harvest, the scape will thicken and harden to a more woody stem. The seed pod also forms and will continue to become larger if not picked.
Why Plant Hardneck Garlic?
Ever since that revelation, I have been a hardcore garlic planter and connoisseur. Planting hardneck variety garlic is a part of my fall gardening routine.
I’m offering a few reasons below why I plant this type, besides the wonderful garlic scapes that grow on the plant.
Buying Hardneck Garlic
Regardless of which variety of garlic you decide to purchase, I highly recommend buying garlic from Botanical Interests. Not only is their garlic organic, but it’s incredibly affordable.
Hurry though, if you are buying for this year, right now is the perfect time to order your fall garlic and some varieties are already selling out.
Added Note: I have found it extremely difficult to find hardneck garlic locally. It’s really just easier for me to order it online now that I know what varieties I like.
This year has proven to be even more challenging. Many people have taken up the hobby of home gardening. Usually I order my hardneck garlic online in September or October. I found out recently that other gardeners began pre-ordering hardneck garlic as early as June!
I was able to order my hardneck garlic online in late August. However, one of my favorite suppliers had already sold out of their garlic around August 7. They might get another supply this year but it’s still unknown.
Where to Buy Hardneck Garlic
In the past I ordered two garlic bulbs from Botanical Interests. I’m not sure how much you spend on garlic at the store but this small investment yield me huge returns each year.
Each clove yields one garlic plant. In fact one summer I had so much garlic I gave it away to several friends. The remaining garlic I keep stores well for a year or more in our canning closet.
You could also store the garlic in a home pantry or any other cool place. In 2019 I planted 20 garlic cloves, then following July I harvested 20 garlic bulbs. They have a great record when it comes to production. Usually I harvest on or around July 4
In addition to Botanical Interests, there are other companies where you can buy hardneck garlic. Some ideas include:
- Local Greenhouses and Plant Nurseries (we have Petitti Garden Centers)
- Gurney’s Seeds
- Burpee Seeds
- Hudson Valley Seed (where I ordered from in 2020)
- Keene Garlic
- Farmer’s Market (if you can find one in your area, buy large bulbs, break them apart and plant the cloves)
- Your garlic harvest from this year, save your largest bulbs for planting
- Friends, family or other gardeners who will share some of their harvest
My basic timeline for planting hardneck garlic is that I order the garlic each year in late summer or early fall. I typically plant the garlic in October, which is the same month I usually put my garden to bed.
In 2015, I was experiencing the beginning stages of labor pains and do you know what I did? Ran outside to plant my garlic bulbs before having my baby!
When to Harvest Hardneck Garlic?
The cloves overwinter and the garlic scapes typically appear in June. I harvest the scapes, preferably, before they become too woody (in the garlic scapes photo above, they were too woody).
The scapes should be curly, usually one to two curls, when they are harvested. Then the garlic bulbs themselves are harvested once the leaves on the plants begin to brown and dry. Depending on the weather, this usually happens mid- to late-summer.
Planting Fall Garlic
1) Variety of Flavors – Typically, hardneck garlic offers distinct, interesting flavors. There are many cultivars of this garlic type from sweet and strong, to mild and mellow.
2) Reduce Spring Workload – By planting garlic in the fall, I have one less plant to worry about planting in the spring. Let’s be honest, springtime is really busy for gardening! Plus it’s fun to have something to look forward to showing some color in the spring – even if it’s only a little bit of green garlic leaves.
3) Climate – Softneck garlic is traditionally grown in warmer climates. Here in Northeast Ohio we are in zone 5, which experiences a hard frost and long winter. Hardneck garlic is frost-hardy and will survive (and even enjoy) the winter! I recommend adding a little grass or leaf clippings over the beds in late fall to add a little bit of protection to your garlic.
4) Garlic Scapes – As mentioned above, when you plant this variety of garlic you receive the wonderful added bonus of garlic scapes, which can be harvested in early summer and used in cooking to add flavor to meals – or frozen for use during the winter.
5) Deer Resistance – Deer will eat almost everything in my garden, but they have never touched my garlic. Deer do not like strong or bitter tastes. When I plant my fall garlic, I plant it around the borders of my garden as a natural deer deterrent.
Garlic Scapes Garlic
If you are interested in the exact variety of hardneck garlic I purchased last year, head on over to Botanical Interests and check out the Purple Glazer variety.
Each bulb offers eight to 10 cloves and will yield the same number of garlic plants! Botanical Interests is also my go-to source for high-quality heirloom and organic seeds.
What questions do you have on growing this plant?
*This post was originally published in 2017 and has been updated and republished for accuracy and comprehensiveness.