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  • Writer's pictureJere Folgert

Can we Grow Hardneck Garlic in the Southern United States?

Updated: Jan 14

Florida may be the Sunshine State, but my hardneck garlic dreams met a soggy, smelly demise there. Picture this: I planted those pearly cloves with hope as bright as the Miami neon, only to watch them transform into a moldy menagerie under the relentless, sauna-like sun.

The humidity hung heavy, a suffocating blanket for my ambitious cloves. They fought valiantly, sprouting spindly green shoots that mocked the lack of a proper winter chill. Rain hammered down, not the life-giving kind, but the relentless, muggy kind that turned the soil into a soupy mess. Then, the rot set in, a slow, fetid waltz of decay.

One by one, my cloves surrendered, turning from plump promises to squishy ghosts. I dug them up, not with the triumphant swagger of a harvest king, but with the cautious nose-holding gait of a plague doctor. The air reeked of defeat, a pungent, garlicky lament for dreams drowned in humidity.

But hey, I learned a valuable lesson (besides the obvious "don't fight Florida's climate"). It's okay to try something audacious, even if it ends up smelling like an old gym sock stuffed with onions. Next time, I'll stick to mangoes and mai tais, and leave the hardneck heroics to the Polar Vortex crowd. For now, I'll just crack open a hardneck garlic bulb from GroEat Farm in Montana and whisper a silent apology to the ghosts of cloves past.
growing garlic in Florida?

Southern Heat and Hardneck Garlic: A Love Story (with a Bit of Chill)

Y'all ready for a tale of grit, ingenuity, and garlic? Strap on your boots, cuz we're headin' south to grow hardneck garlic, the rebel of the rootin' tootin' bulb family! Now, most folks think garlic needs frosty winters to thrive, but us southerners like a challenge. We're gonna show those pearly cloves a good time, even if it means bendin' the rules a bit.

First, the why: Hardneck garlic, with its purple stripes and fiery personality, ain't your average supermarket Joe. It boasts complex flavors, stores like a champ, and shoots up those beautiful scapes, perfect for stir-frying or pesto. But here's the rub: these bad boys need vernalization, a fancy term for a good ol' fashioned cold spell. They gotta experience 8-12 weeks of chilly temps (around 40°F) to develop those plump bulbs we crave.

So, what's a southern garlic lover to do? Well, we break out the ol' icebox, y'all! That's right, we're talkin' refrigerator vernalization. Imagine this: you tuck your garlic cloves in a mesh bag like a cozy little bed, pop them in the crisper drawer for a couple of months, and boom! They emerge, ready to rock and roll come fall. It's like givin' them a winter vacation in the tropics, minus the sand and piña coladas (though, who says you can't have those too?).

Let's be honest, it ain't all sunshine and scapes. Vernalization can be finicky. Sometimes, the cloves sulk and refuse to sprout. You gotta watch the timing, make sure the fridge ain't too cold, and pray to the gods of good soil and sunshine. But when it works? Oh, honey, it's a symphony of garlicky goodness.

And here's the kicker: even with a little fridge magic, southern hardneck garlic can be a touch temperamental. The heat can stunt growth, the humidity can encourage fungus, and those pesky critters ain't afraid of a little spice. But that's where the southern spirit comes in! We fight the good fight, hand-weedin' with pride, mulch like nobody's business, and celebrate every green shoot like a victory dance.

So, is it worth it? You bet your sweet bippy it is! Growing hardneck garlic in the south is a challenge, but it's a rewarding one. It's about pushing boundaries, celebratin' the unexpected, and savorin' the taste of homegrown victory. Plus, when you bite into that first homegrown clove, the flavor explosion will have you forgettin' all about the sweat and tears (maybe).

So, y'all ready to join the Southern Hardneck Garlic Revolution? Grab your cloves, your fridge, and your gumption. We're gonna show the world that even in the heat, a little grit and ingenuity can grow somethin' mighty fine.

Remember, folks: growing hardneck garlic in the south may not be easy, but it sure is fun! And just like any good southern story, it's all about the journey, the laughs, and the sweet, sweet garlicky reward at the end.

You fell in love with the incredible flavor of hardneck garlic and you want to grow your own. But, you live in Texas, Florida, South Carolina, Mississippi, or another southern state. Can you grow hardneck garlic in this warmer climate?

Unlike most vegetables, hardneck garlic is typically planted in the fall instead of spring. In the United States, most hardneck garlic is grown in the northern region, in the USDA Hardiness Zones of 1-6. Why? In order to form healthy bulbs, hardneck garlic need to experience at least 10 weeks of cold. This period of cold exposure is known as vernalization. Individual hardneck garlic cloves (seed garlic) are typically planted in the fall before the ground freezes in cold climates, right around or just before Halloween.

I will be the first to admit that growing hardneck garlic in the Southern United States can be tricky. Winters are not quite cold enough for hardneck garlic's special needs. For those of you in areas where the ground does not freeze (or does only for a short period of time), hardneck garlic can be planted in December or January.

The hardneck garlic can be cooled in a refrigerator for up to 4 months before planting, creating an artificial vernalization period. Do not store bulbs in plastic in the fridge because they require ventilation – a paper bag, egg carton, mesh or canvas bag is best. And do not store bulbs with fruit because fruit emits ethylene gas which will ruin the bulbs. Storing bulbs in the fridge for about 10 weeks before planting is ideal. Only take the bulbs out of the fridge when you are ready to plant. The highest chilling temperature is around 40 degrees F. (4 C.), so chilling bulbs in the refrigerator is ideal.

Commercial hardneck garlic growers should have their best selection of seed garlic in-stock by early September. Plan to purchase your seed garlic early, and after receiving it, place the garlic in the refrigerator. Be sure to mark the container with the date you placed it in the refrigerator and a "ready date" which would be 3-4 months from the first date.
Growing hardneck garlic in the Southern United States can be tricky. Winters are not quite cold enough for hardneck garlic's special needs.

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