Garlic: Hardneck vs Softneck

When choosing a type of garlic to plant the first step is usually to decide on “hardneck” or “softneck”. Here's a snapshot to help you determine which is best for your growing conditions and taste preferences.

Hardneck Garlic

Garlic varieties categorized as hardneck have the following characteristics:
  • Hardneck garlic is a good choice for growing in regions where winter temperatures are cold for long periods. These garlics need cold to develop fully.
  • A tall center stalk or scape grows through the middle of each bulb. In late spring, the scapes develop flowers and later bulbils (mini bulbs). When young, scapes are edible, tender and delicious.
  • The cloves in hardneck garlic bulbs are larger and there are fewer of them than in softneck bulbs.
  • Hardneck garlic stores for a few months; enjoy it sooner rather than many months into the future.

Softneck Garlic

Softneck garlics have the following characteristics:
  • Softneck garlic is a good choice for growing in regions where winter temperatures are mild. These garlics need little to no winter cold for best development.
  • The foliage on softneck garlic forms as clusters of leaves; there are no center stalks or scapes. This makes softneck garlic ideal for braiding into ropes and wreaths.
  • The cloves in softneck garlic bulbs tend to be smaller and more numerous than those in hardneck bulbs.
  • Softneck garlic stores well, typically for 8-9 months and in some case for up to a year. Because of this long keeping ability, this is the kind of garlic usually found in grocery stores.
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