Garlic is a staple in my kitchen and many others, tossed into almost any dish I can squeeze it into (except perhaps desserts). The taste of fresh garlic is a must-have and far superior to store-bought pastes. But you can get even more flavor from this essential ingredient when harvesting straight from your garden. Fall is the ideal time to plant garlic; many delicious varieties await!
Growing your own garlic opens a world of possibilities for color, size, and flavor. You can tailor your choice of variety to your garden environment and specific tastes but be warned – once you grow your own, grocery store garlic won’t ever match up.
There are many delicious fall garlic varieties to choose from. Or, if you have the space and a garlic obsession, you can always try growing them all.
Hardneck vs Softneck: What’s The Difference?
When searching for garlic varieties, you’ll find options labeled either hardneck or softneck. These distinctions are not just visually descriptive – explaining the difference in growth habit of the central stalk or neck – but they also influence growing zones, shelf life, and (most importantly for enthusiastic home cooks) flavor.
Hardneck garlic is the hardier of the two, suitable for growing in cooler climates. They grow best in USDA Zones 4-8, needing around six weeks of temperatures below 45F to create full bulbs. You can grow hardneck garlic in slightly warmer zones if your winter temperatures drop low enough or with the help of artificial vernalization over winter.
Evident in the name, hardneck garlic has a stiff central stalk that extends into the bulb. Flowering stalks (called scapes) pop up in spring, giving you a little taste of the garlic bulbs that will come in summer. One of the great benefits of hardneck garlic varieties is their complex flavor, combined with larger cloves that give you more to work with in the kitchen.
You’ll probably recognize softneck garlic, the type most often sold in grocery stores for its long shelf life. As they don’t need temperatures to drop too low for bulbs to form, these varieties are best for mild to warm climates. USDA Zones 6-10 are ideal, but softneck garlic can grow almost anywhere (bar the coldest regions).
13 Varieties Of Garlic To Plant In Fall
Specific flavors, from mild to hot, largely come down to variety. Once you’ve chosen the best type for your zone and storage needs, be sure to choose a variety with a flavor you’ll enjoy. That is the bonus of growing your own, after all.
Often mistaken for garlic, this variety is more closely related to leeks but widely recognized and grown.
Probably the most well-known and commonly grown garlic variety, Elephant garlic is, funnily enough, not technically garlic at all. This species (Allium ampeloprasum var. ampeloprasum as opposed to Allium sativum) is more closely related to leeks but is often grouped with garlic for its similar shape and uses.
This plant’s main attraction is the bulbs’ size, from which they take their name. The flavor is wonderfully mild and similar to leeks, suitable for use in a variety of dishes. The bulbs, made up of 1-6 massive cloves, are also ideal candidates for roasting.
‘Music’ garlic, a large Canadian variety, is known for its big bulbs, sweet yet peppery flavor, cold resistance, and high yield.
Another massive fall garlic variety (that is actually garlic) is ‘Music.’ This unique name stems from Canadian garlic grower Al Music, who brought the variety home from Italy in the 1980s, explaining why it is one of the most widely grown varieties in Canada today.
This hardneck garlic develops huge bulbs with 4-6 cloves and a sweet, peppery taste that becomes even sweeter when roasted. Those in chilly climates will appreciate ‘Music’s’ impressive cold tolerance and its high yield.
‘Silver White,’ a mild and versatile softneck garlic, enhances dishes with its classic flavor.
Classic in both look and flavor, ‘Silver White‘ is a versatile garlic that tastes great baked, roasted, or even eaten fresh. The taste is mild, never overwhelming the senses, but still adding that essential garlicky punch we’re all after.
As a softneck garlic, ‘Silver White’ lasts up to a year in storage, with flavors intensifying as the months go by. The malleable stems are also great for braiding, helping to extend their shelf life.
‘Silver White’ has been stabilized as a softneck variety for close to a hundred years, but if it experiences colder conditions than it has become adapted to, it can sometimes revert and act as a hardneck, complete with producing a scape. This makes this variety a good choice no matter where in the US you are!
German White Stiffneck
The hardneck garlic ‘German White Stiffneck’ features striking white bulbs with red wrappers.
‘German White Stiffneck‘ is a hardneck garlic variety that originates from – you guessed it – Germany. The bulbs emerge a bright white, encasing cloves covered in bright red wrappers that create a wonderful contrast.
While hardnecks generally prefer the cold, ‘German White Stiffneck’ in particular appreciates chilly winters to help the plant produce its large bulbs. The flavor is described as strong but not hot, ideal for avid garlic lovers.
Plant the Russian ‘Chesnok Red’ garlic for vibrant color and rich flavor, a hardneck type suited for cooler climates.
If color is what you’re after, you can’t go wrong planting ‘Chesnok Red.’ This variety hails from Russia (Chesnok is Russian for garlic) and features deep purple stripes on the bulbs and individual cloves, quickly standing out next to other varieties.
Able to withstand chill well, ‘Chesnok Red’ is a hardneck garlic ideal for mild to cold regions. Roasting or baking is recommended to bring out the subtle sweetness of the remarkably flavorful cloves.
‘Creole Red’ is a heat-tolerant hardneck garlic with red clove wrappers that thrives in mild winters.
While ‘German White Stiffneck’ and ‘Chesnok Red’ grow better in cool zones, Creole Red is a hardneck variety that doesn’t mind some heat. This garlic really shines in areas with mild winters, but those in warmer zones who want to try growing hardnecks should definitely give ‘Creole Red’ a try.
The ‘red’ in the name comes from the clove wrappers, shining a deep purple-red through the crisp white outer peel. Lasting an impressive 10-12 months in storage, this variety is suitable for braiding without scapes, allowing you to enjoy the fresh shallot-like flavor for months on end.
Red is a top-quality softneck garlic with sizable, flavorful cloves that take longer to cure.
While its original origin is unknown, ‘Inchelium Red‘ is named after Inchelium, Washington, and the Colville Native American Reservation where it was discovered. This softneck garlic is considered by many to be superior in size and flavor, producing 8-20 large cloves with a strong garlic taste.
Keep an eye on the bulbs when storing. They will take slightly longer to cure due to their larger size, but the development in flavor is well worth the wait.
‘Spanish Roja’ is a cold-loving hardneck garlic with visually appealing cloves that delivers a flavorful, mildly spicy taste.
One of the most beautiful garlic varieties on the market, ‘Spanish Roja‘ develops adorable white bulbs with purple stripes, opening to reveal warm-toned yellow cloves dotted with purple. Despite this warm color, ‘Spanish Roja’ is a hardneck garlic that develops the best bulbs in cold regions.
Believed to be introduced to Oregon as far back as the 19th century, ‘Spanish Roja’ is an established heirloom that lasts 4-6 months in storage. The easy-to-peel cloves pack a punch in flavor, perfect for those who like a little heat.
This type, prized for its strong flavor, offers heat that enhances sauces and cooked dishes.
‘Romanian Red‘ is another garlic sought-after for its impressive flavor. It is one of the hotter options on this list, with a long-lasting flavor that works well in sauces. If you’re feeling brave, you can try fresh cloves, which are most appreciated for their intensity and fire in cooked dishes.
‘Romanian Red’ bulbs are large, with around five cloves per bulb. Luckily, you don’t need to use much in the kitchen to make the most of its pungent flavor.
‘Sicilian Artichoke,’ a balanced softneck garlic, offers a mild yet subtly spicy flavor suitable for various dishes.
Those looking for a little more balance in flavor will appreciate ‘Sicilian Artichoke.’ This softneck variety has a subtle spiciness but is generally mild, perfect for a range of cooking scenarios. It has the balance in its flavor of storebought garlic, heightened by its complexity and longevity.
‘Sicilian Artichoke’ produces white bulbs that can develop tinges of purple, depending on the climate they are planted in. Braid the stems for storage to keep your harvest for up to 8 months long.
‘Montana Zemo,’ named after its origin, thrives in cold climates, producing sizable bulbs with 4-7 flavorful cloves.
Developed at the base of the Mission Mountains in Northwestern Montana, it’s easy to see where this hardneck variety gets its name. This origin also gives ‘Montana Zemo‘ an affinity for cold climates, developing the most robust bulbs in lower USDA Zones.
The ‘Montana Zemo’ bulbs are large, with 4-7 cloves packed with flavor. Although the flavor is strong, there is little aftertaste or heat when eaten fresh. Once cooked, the cloves take on a subtle sweetness and become much richer.
‘Ajo Rojo,’ a hardneck variety, showcases vibrant color with red clove wrappers.
Color is the star of the show when growing ‘Ajo Rojo.’ The name translates from Spanish to ‘red garlic,’ describing the pinkish-red clove wrappers beneath a bright white outer peel. While the cloves are hot when eaten raw, the flavor becomes much more subtle and even creamy after cooking.
‘Ajo Rojo’ is a hardneck suitable for growing in warmer areas. It won’t develop a scape when temperatures are higher, allowing you to braid the stems to store for almost an entire year.
This versatile softneck heirloom thrives in various climates and forms up to 20 striped pinkish-red cloves.
‘Nootka Rose‘ is a softneck heirloom from the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington. It is one of the most adaptable garlic varieties you can grow, handling a range of climates well and not encountering many problems.
The bulbs are formed by up to 20 cloves in overlapping layers, striped with a pinkish red. The soft stems can be braided to store for an impressive 12 months.
Choose and plant varieties in the fall with proper spacing for successful garlic planting.
No matter which garlic variety (or perhaps varieties) you choose, you should be ready to plant them out directly in fall. For those in warm climates attempting artificial vernalization for hardnecks, refrigerate for at least two weeks before planting out to encourage the bulbs to develop.
Don’t wait too long to get the cloves in the ground! The roots need time to establish before temperatures drop too low. Aim to plant around 4-6 weeks before the first hard freeze in cooler climates.
Space each clove around 6-8 inches apart, with row spacing depending on the size of the variety you’ve chosen. Ensure the pointed side is facing up, burying the clove around 4 inches deep. To avoid freezing the bulbs, cover them with a layer of organic mulch.
The bulbs will be ready to harvest around 7-9 months after planting, depending on your climate and which type you are growing. Harvest when the tops change color or fall over, placing the plant in a warm and airy location to dry.
Whether you’re an avid garlic lover that appreciates intense flavor or you prefer milder and more subtle garlic scents, there are many options to explore. The season may be long, but the boost in flavor and the excitement of growing these bulbs make the process all the more worthwhile.