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Garlic

When to Plant

Garlic is most often planted in the fall (between September and November). Garlic roots develop during the fall and winter—before the ground freezes—and by early spring, they start producing foliage. Then, you’ll harvest in the summer. Garlic needs a cold period of at least 40˚F for about 4 to 8 weeks.

However, you can also plant garlic in the spring, especially if you have a long growing season. The cloves won’t be as large, but you’ll enjoy the garlic scapes which are delicious shoots with a mild garlic flavor. Enjoy on eggs, in salads, as a pizza topping, or in stir-fries.

If you live in the South or Southwest, plant the cloves anytime from the fall through early spring (March). Plant early because garlic doesn’t do well once the weather gets hot.

Choosing a Planting Site

  • Select a gardening area that receives 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day.

  • Prepare soil by removing weeds and mixing in healthy additions of compost.

  • If you plant in the spring, wait until the soil has thawed and drained. Once soil crumbles apart easily, it’s time to plant. 

  • For an easy and large harvest, we suggest using heavily mulched raised beds, especially in heavy soil. Raised beds should be 2 to 3 feet wide and at least 10 to 12 inches tall. 

  • Before planting cloves, work a couple tablespoons of 5-10-10 complete fertilizer, bone meal or fish meal into the soil several inches below where the base of the garlic will rest.

How to Plant

  • Get cloves from a mail order seed company or a local nursery.

  • Do not use cloves from the grocery store for planting. They may be unsuitable varieties for your area, and most are treated to make their shelf life longer, making them harder to grow.

  • Select large, healthy cloves, free of disease. The larger the clove, the bigger and healthier the bulb you will get the following summer.

  • Break apart cloves from the bulb a few days before planting, but keep the papery husk on each individual clove.

  • Place cloves 2 to 4 inches apart and 2 inches deep, in their upright position (the wide root side facing down and pointed end facing up). 

  • Plant in rows spaced 10 to 14 inches apart.

How to Grow

  • Northern gardeners should mulch heavily with straw to ensure proper overwintering. Read our mulching guide for more info!

  • Mulch should be removed in the spring after the threat of frost has passed. (Young shoots can’t survive in temps below 20°F / -6°C on their own. Keep them under cover.)

  • In the spring, as warmer temperatures come, shoots will emerge through the ground.

  • Cut off any flower shoots that emerge in spring. These may decrease bulb size.

  • Fertilize garlic in the early spring by side dressing with a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer such as blood meal, chicken manure, or a store-bought pelleted fertilizer.

  • Fertilize again just before the bulbs begin to swell in response to lengthening daylight (usually early May in most regions).

  • Weeds should not be a problem until spring. However, keep the planting site well weeded. Garlic doesn’t do well with competition—it needs all available nutrients!

  • Garlic is a heavy feeder which requires adequate levels of nitrogen. Fertilize more if you see yellowing leaves.

  • Water every 3 to 5 days during bulbing (mid-May through June). If May and June are very dry, irrigate to a depth of two feet every eight to 10 days. As mid-June approaches, taper off watering.

Pests/Diseases

  • Garlic has very few problems with pests in the garden (in fact, its a natural pest repellent), and also very few problems with the diseases that plague other veggies. White rot is one concern, but you should also keep an eye out for the same pests that plague onions.

  • White Rot is a fungus that may attack garlic in cool weather. Not much can be done to control or prevent that problem except rotating your crops and cleaning up the area after harvesting. The spores can live in the soil for many years. The fungus affects the base of the leaves and roots.

How to Harvest

  • Harvest from fall plantings will range from late June to August. In Southern climates, it will depend on your planting date.

  • The clue is to look for yellowing foliage. Harvest when the tops just begin to yellow and fall over, but before they are completely dry.

  • Before digging up your whole crop, it’s time for a sample! Lift a bulb to see if the crop is ready. We often dig up a bulb before the tops are completely yellow (in late June or early July) as some garlic types will be ready earlier. The garlic head will be divided into plump cloves and the skin covering the outside of the bulbs will be thick, dry and papery.

    • If pulled too early, the bulb wrapping will be thin and disintegrate.

    • If left in the ground too long, the bulbs sometimes split apart. The skin may also split, which exposes the bulbs to disease and will affect their longevity in storage.

  • To harvest, carefully dig (don’t pull or yank by hand!) up the bulbs using a garden fork. Avoid damaging the roots and especially the root-plate (where they attach to the bulb). Lift the plants, carefully brush off surplus soil but do not remove any foliage or roots before putting them to dry thoroughly.

  • Let them cure in an airy, shady, dry spot for two weeks. We hang them upside down on a string in bunches of 4 to 6 or you can leave them to try on a home-made rack made from chicken wire stretched over posts. Make sure all sides get good air circulation.

  • After a few weeks, the garlic should be totally dry and ready to store!