How to Grow Garlic
Time Required: 2-4 hours
When temperatures start to cool down in late summer, it’s time to plant garlic bulbs in your home garden. Garlic is the last vegetable of the season to go into the ground – specifically, after the first frost in October and before the end of November to avoid cold winters.
Garlic cloves planted in the fall slowly grow roots all winter and show vigorous green growth first thing in spring. Garlic is ready by early summer, leaving room in the garden for another vegetable after the last bulb is harvested and saved. After garlic has been planted and mulched, it needs no further attention until plants poke up through the mulch in spring or early summer.
Tip: For a twist, try Chinese leeks, known also as garlic chives. This is grown not for the bulb but rather for its tasty stems and its small flower stalk.
There are two types of garlic cloves:
- Softneck garlic varieties are more commonly available in supermarkets because they're easier to grow in a variety of climates.
- Hardneck garlic varieties are larger and easier to peel and are popular with chefs for their variety of complex flavors. These are typically found at natural food stores or farmers’ markets.
- Choose a sunny, very well-drained spot in your garden bed to grow garlic and add balanced organic fertilizer in the bottom of the furrows.
- Use a digging fork to mix in a 1-inch layer of compost with fertilizer and soil.
- Garlic is a moderately heavy feeder and placing fertilizer at the roots ensures the nutrients will still be there in spring, when the plants need them most.
- Pull apart the garlic bulb leaving the paper coat on the cloves.
- The cloves should be white, not brown, and there should be between 4 to 7 cloves per bulb.
- Do not be concerned if you have green garlic tops, that is common.
- Plant the cloves’ roots about three inches deep, and the head of garlic pointed end up.
- Depending on the size of the cloves, space them anywhere from 4 to 8 inches apart.
Tip: To yield large bulbs when planting garlic, plant the largest cloves.
- Mulch the planting and cover the cloves with up to 6-inches deep of soil, preferably with plenty of organic matter like chopped leaves, leaves mixed with grass clippings, pine needles or straw. These lofty mulches will pack down over time, and insulate the plants from weather extremes like a snug blanket.
- Mulching over your garlic bed after planting suppresses weeds, slows evaporation and keeps the garden tidy.
- During the growing season, give it about an inch of water per week.
- The garlic scapes should emerge in the early spring.
Garlic is low maintenance while growing. Keep it watered and mulched and wait for the scapes in early spring.
Tip: Label your seed garlic so each variety can be easily identified.
Fertilize garlic again in spring when the plants are about 8 inches tall and show steady new growth. Just before a rain is expected, add a heavy dusting of balanced organic fertilizer between plants.