Garlic and Hot Climates
Garlic evolved in climates with cold winters. Like similar flowering but non-edible bulbs such as tulips and daffodils, it needs a period of cold (called vernalization) to produce well. Hardneck garlic in particular is quite cold hardy but does not do well in warm climates, while softneck garlic can take more warmth. Springs that heat up quickly result in smaller bulbs because the garlic matures faster.
Tinkering with the Environment
In order to develop good-sized bulbs, garlic needs the right day length, growing temperatures and a vernalization period. For bulbing, garlic needs day length over 13 hours, soil temperature over 60°F (16°C). and air temperatures above 68°F (20°C). By providing the cloves with a chilling period in the refrigerator for 10 to 12 weeks and fall planting garlic, using mulch and shade to keep the soil cool, you can adjust the environment.
Supplying garlic with a cold period increases the chances of a good crop. To vernalize:
- Place garlic in the refrigerator in a shallow tray lined with paper towels.
- Don’t store the garlic in plastic; it encourages condensation inside the bag and the cloves may rot.
- Refrigerate the garlic six to seven weeks in a moderately warm climate and 10 to 12 weeks in a tropical area.
Choose the Right Varieties
Unless you are an experienced gardener, you’re probably better off to choose softneck garlic for a Florida garden, at least at first. Lorz Italian and Thermadrone are good choices. Georgian Crystal, Parvin and Susanville were all developed for hotter climates. The Creole group includes hardnecks that originated in Spain and tolerate more heat. Try Ajo Rojo and Creole Red from this group. For all hardnecks, vernalize the cloves and manage the environment carefully.
Garlic Growing Techniques for Florida
Highly fertile soil is critical to grow good garlic. Amend the soil with lots of organic humus and add a 15-10-10 fertilizer before you plant. Your goal is to have large healthy plants with lots of leaves before the bulbs develop. Plant your vernalized bulbs one inch deep and six inches apart in late fall. Cover with deep straw to keep the ground cool and place the garlic where it gets afternoon shade. Keep well-watered.