What kind of garlic can I grow on Maui?
WORKS: purple stripe hardneck varieties like Metechi and Chesnok Red
DOESN’T WORK: softneck varieties (most commonly found in grocers)
January through June
Best performance was witnessed in sand mixed with compost; garlic prefers loose soil versus soil that compacts easily (like clay). Loose soil allows the bulb to grow easily.
Put garlic seeds in the fridge months before planting. When the seeds (cloves) begin to put out roots, it’s time to plant. This can happen anytime between early January to late February. Seeds must be in a dark, low-humid, and cold (35-40°) area of the fridge for the hibernation period.
Layer garlic seeds (bulbs) in reusable black totes, with cloth and a cup or two of rice in between each of the layers to absorb moisture. Check bulbs once a week to look for mold or root development. Rotate bulbs in tote if necessary.
When roots begin to form, pull out of the fridge. Separate bulbs into cloves, then separate big cloves from small cloves. We suggest planting big and small separately, as small cloves will yield only small bulbs or a ‘green garlic’ for harvest. Bigger cloves equal bigger bulbs. Do not peel all the skin off of the clove, as the skin protects the seed. Plant the cloves roughly one inch into the soil, roots down, and cover gently. Plant them roughly one shaka-width apart.
After a couple of weeks, a garlic shoot will appear out of the soil, followed by more leaves in the weeks to come. Now, here’s the fun bit: You can let the garlic do its thing covered in dirt and harvest what’s magically pulled out of the soil, or you can increase bulb size by uncovering the soil around the bulb (but do not expose the roots) and remove the brown leaf that’s at the very bottom of the plant and peel it from the bulb every couple of days. This decreases tension on the bulb, allowing it to grow with ease, and the sun exposure changes the bulb’s skin color from white to purple.
Garlic does not like weeds. Weed routinely to make sure garlic gets all the nutrients and water.
Irrigate every 3–4 days during growing season (January-ish to late April), unless it’s very dry. In other words, no need to irrigate if it rains. Garlic likes to be dry a few weeks before harvest.
Field curing happens when there’s no rain for a couple of weeks and the garlic can simply dry naturally in the field.
If rain is on the horizon and you are satisfied with bulb size, go ahead and pull out of the ground. Store in a dry, warm area to cure for a couple of weeks. You can keep the leaves intact and the soil on.
Cut the garlic flower a few days after it appears. The garlic flower is strong and spicy, great for culinary uses. Cutting the flower causes the plant to focus energy on the bulb and not seed/flower production, which supposedly increases bulb size by at least 20% and retains the spiciness.
A bulb that’s ready for harvest will show dimples, which indicate clover formation. Some bulbs will be uni-bulb, or one giant clove, which makes peeling that much easier.
The bulbs like south-facing slope with full sun using sand mixed with compost and red dirt showed the best results yet.
Garlic has a mind of its own and knows when daylight is getting longer during the winter and spring. Even in the fridge, it knows. It typically terminates by the summer solstice, too, which makes me think garlic understands an electromagnetic wavelength from the sun that farmers need to become more aware of. It’s a pain to peel back that bottom leaf every few days, especially when we’re talking thousands of bulbs, but it helps increase the overall size and harvest weight. Garlic has never been an easy crop to grow in Hawai’i, but it does grow here.