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What's the Difference Between Softneck Garlic & Hardneck Garlic?

Growing garlic in your own garden lets you play with flavors you cannot find at stores. We carry more organic seed garlic than any other garden company, at the best prices, so plunge in and get garlicky.

How to grow garlic

The nuts and bolts of growing and harvesting garlic are right here for you, in our How to Grow Garlic video and our downloadable Garlic Growing Guide. The question is, which varieties of garlic seed do you want to plant? Softneck or hardneck or both?

Garlic has a neck?

By the time you see garlic in the store it has been trimmed, but there is still a papery tuft that stands above the bulb. That's the covering of the "neck" of the garlic. Garlic also comes with different colored skins around the cloves. The cloves themselves are always a creamy white. softneck seed garlic

Softneck garlic

This is the garlic you'll find in most grocery stores. The bulb has a mild flavor. A great virtue of the softneck garlic (Allium sativum ssp. sativum) is that it stores very well. Since the necks are (literally) soft, you can cut them nice and long for braiding. A braid of garlic makes a winning kitchen gift for friends and family! Which to choose? California Early White has no hot bite in its flavor, grows rapidly and is ready to harvest early. If making garlic braids is your top priority, plant California Late White. You'll get a stronger flavor with this garlic, and it does better in warm climates than the Early variety.
hardneck seed garlic

Hardneck garlic

Hardnecks (Allium sativum ssp. ophioscorodon) are closer to wild garlic, with complex flavors. These are the garlics that some compare to wines with subtle differences that reflect the regional soil and weather patterns. One simple benefit to the cook is the way some of their skins slip off smoothly. Hardnecks do not store as long as softnecks -- cure them, eat them within 6-10 months, and get to know their distinctive flavors. Spanish Roja's flavor in particular is rich and classic -- it does have a shorter shelf life, of 3-4 months, so go ahead and enjoy this best seller early. Our website has information on all of the garlic varieties that we sell. elephant seed garlic

What about Elephant Garlic?

This big guy is technically in the leek family, but you'd never know by the look or the taste. Kids love harvesting this giant of the garlic patch, and it keeps well too, with a mild flavor.

Storing garlic

Garlic keeps best at 60-65°F with moderate humidity. Store it in a dry location, a paper bag or mesh tubing works great. If you need help keeping tabs on the temperature and humidity in your storage area, try our Digital Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer. garlic combo pack

Our garlic combo pack

Still can't decide? That's why we created our Garlic Combo Pack, to let you try a little of this and a little of that -- at a bargain price! It's a gastronomical delight featuring organic California Early White softnecks, organic Russian Red and organic Purple Italian hardnecks, a conventional Elephant garlic, and even some organic French Red Shallots for delicate flavors. growing great garlic book ron engeland

Our favorite garlic book

It's hard to keep Growing Great Garlic on the shelves here. Ron Engeland's popular book is the ultimate guide for the organic garlic grower; in addition to practical advice, you'll learn more about garlic in the Hanging Gardens of Babylon. For more information on garlic watch our videos on Growing Garlic and Garden Planning & Crop Rotation. Get the scoop on Music, the most popular of our hardneck garlics. Learn how to grow garlic and its allium cousins with our article on What to Plant in Your Winter Garden.

Welcome to the world of seed garlic! Plant some garlic this year, keep track of what you like, and experiment with new varieties in the years ahead. Once you start growing garlic at home you'll be spoiled by having your own cured garlic to cook with, in such a range of flavors.


  • Lynn and Don, for hardneck garlic you can trim off most of the stem. I would leave about 1/2". Just don’t want to trim it so close that you are cutting into the tops of the garlic cloves.

  • How much of the “hard neck” of hardneck garlic should one remove before storing?

  • In order to store hardneck garlic, how much of the “hard neck” should one remove?

  • Dorothy, in zone 5 you should grow hardneck garlic. Look for varieties that say does well in cold winters. Plant it in October and make sure you put down a thick layer of mulch in the winter to protect from freezing. In the spring remove some of the mulch and fertilize it.

  • What is the best garlic for me to plant in zone 5? I am new to growing it. So far, it’s been a bomb for 2 years!

    dorothy J myers
  • SJ, the garlic should be growing in full sun.

  • I have planted both varieties in my garden ( , soft neck growing in indirect sun and full shade, not sure how bulbs would be.

    Hard neck plants look more strong and healthier compare to their counter parts.

  • Cmartcookie, it is very difficult to tell the difference between the hardnecks when just harvesting, unless you planted ones that have very different colored wrappers. It is easier to tell the difference between a hardneck and softneck. Best thing to have done was mark the rows when you planted them. The garlic you buy will arrive as whole bulbs, unless you get elephant garlic, which the bulb may be broken up into cloves. It is best to have bulbs arrive as full bulbs and not to break them up into individual cloves until you are ready to plant. Not sure about how much sand to add if any. The information about selecting garlic is not in the growing guide, but you should find what you need in this article.

    Suzanne at
  • Questions – What is the best way to (1) ID which garlic you’ve planted where in the garden so that you can separate it when harvesting? (2) Best way to store varieties so that you can actually remember what kind you are using so that you know what to buy next time? (3) Does the garlic ordered arrive in bulbs? or cloves? I’ve heard to not buy the garlic if not still in the bulb. (4) Soil amendment – is there a rule of thumb for making bagged raised bed soil into a sandy loam… by adding how much sand????

    Comment – I’m in the dark ages here and don’t have speakers on my computer. Is the video info on how to select garlic in the growing guide link above?

  • What are 4 different kinds of garlic I can find in the store?

    Jaylen Wilson
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