Can we Grow Hardneck Garlic in the Southern United States?
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.