Planting garlic is very easy and requires very little space. Garlic grows from single cloves that are broken off a whole bulb. Once planted each clove will multiply and form a whole new bulb.
Even with just a small garden, you can grow enough garlic to supply yourself for an entire year.
Garlic is a great source of Vitamin A, Vitamin C, potassium, phosphorus, selenium, and amino acids. Lately, there has even been a lot talk of garlic helping to reduce and maintain healthy levels of cholesterol.
Either way, garlic is delicious as well as nutritious.
Learn how to grow garlic to maximize your harvest!
Choosing Different Types Of Garlic
There are two main types of garlic available.
Some would argue that elephant garlic would be a third variety of garlic but Elephant Garlic is actually a member of the onion family and more closely related to leeks than to garlic.
Garlic is a member of the allium or onion family. The two types of garlic available are softneck and hardneck.
Softneck varieties of garlic are what is commonly sold at most supermarkets. Softnecks have a mild flavor and a bulb can contain as many as twenty cloves.
Softneck garlic has multiple layers of cloves and a hard to peal outer layer. This hard outer layer gives softneck garlic a shelf life of up to eight months.
Softneck garlic does better in a mild climate.
When shopping for the softneck varietys, you will see are two common types of garlic: Silverskin and Artichoke.
Artichoke garlic varieties you may see include:
Silverskin garlic varieties you may see include:
- Kettle River Giant
- Polish White
- Chet’s Italian Red
Hardneck garlic varieties produce a stem, or scape, that grows up through the center of the bulb. Once the bulb is harvested and dried the scape turns stiff and woody in the center of the bulb.
Hardneck varieties have a more intense flavor, large cloves and are easier to peel. The looser, easy to peel skin tends to shorten the shelf life to around four to five months.
Hardneck garlic is a hardy grower and a good choice for regions with very cold winters.
Hardneck garlic varieties you may see include:
- German White
- Polish Hardneck
- Purple Stripe
- Persian Star
- Chesnok Red
Elephant garlic belongs to the same family, allium or onion, but is not a “true” garlic. It is more closely related to the garden leek.
It has a tall, solid, flowering stalk and broad, flat leaves much like those of the leek, but forms a bulb consisting of very large, garlic-like cloves.
The flavor of these is very mild with hints of garlic.
Where To Plant G
Choose a sunny spot that does not collect water. If the soil does not drain well your garlic will rot away or become diseased. Also, avoid a location that was previously planted with either garlic or onions.
When To Plant Garlic
Cloves should be planted as early as possible in the spring, as soon as the soil can be worked.
Fall garlic planting is traditional and what most gardeners recommend. By planting in the fall it gives the garlic roots a chance to start developing over the fall and the winter.
By early spring they will already have good roots established and will be able to support rapid new growth. This is essential for forming large bulbs.
In northern climates, you can plant garlic six to eight weeks before the first expected frost date.
The goal with fall planting is to have them in the ground long enough before the ground freezes for the clove to form strong roots, but not so long that they start to send up green shoots.
Prepare The Soil For Garlic
Garlic thrives in fertile, well-drained soil. This is easy to achieve this combination in a raised bed.
If your soil needs improvement to add a healthy dose of compost and aged manure. Soil pH is important throughout the garden and garlic does best with a pH of 6.5 to 7.
How To Plant Garlic
It is best to use good quality seed garlic and try to plant a few varieties to see what does best in your soil type.
Do not try and plant garlic cloves from the grocery store. You would have no idea the variety you would be planting. Also, most commercially produced garlic is treated with a sprout inhibitor that
Separate the cloves from the seed bulb the day before planting, but keep the papery covering on each individual clove. Don’t separate them from the main bulb any more than 48 hours before they can be planted because you don't want them to dry out too much.
The larger cloves will produce the largest bulbs come harvest time.
Plant garlic cloves with the paper peels intact. Space the cloves 4-6″ apart.
Rows should be spaced about one foot apart. The cloves should be planted with the pointed end up and the flat end down.
Push each clove 1-2″ into the ground, smooth the soil around it, and water lightly.
After planting it is important to lay down w protective layer of mulch. You can use straw, chopped leave, hay or even grass clippings.
Mulch 6-8 inches deep in northern climates.
The mulch will not only provide a little insulation from hard freezing, but it will also prevent the garlic from moving in the ground for the alternate freezing and thawing that comes over the winter.
Over the winter months the mulch will pack down and start to decompose. This layer of mulch will help to keep weeds at bay throughout the spring.
Early in the spring, you will see tiny green shoots start to emerge as soon as the ground thaws. Pull back the mulch slightly around the new shoots and feed the new garlic plants to encourage good growth.
Garlic is a heavy feeder in the soil and requires higher levels of nitrogen. Fertilize more often if you see yellowing of the leaves. Use a high nirtrogen fertilizer such as blood meal or a liquid fish emulsion.
Keep the garlic bed well weeded because garlic doesn't like to comepete with weed. It needs all the nutrients in the soil to grow large bulbs. The good covering of mulch will help to limit weeds.
In late spring and early summer
When you trim off the scapes, you ensure that all the plants growing energy will be funneled into growing the bulb and not into trying to produce a flower.
Constant watering is important during the bulb forming stage in early summer. As a general rule, try to water every 3 -5 days from May through June.
Once you hit mid-June slowly taper off watering and pull back any remaining mulch. Your garlic bulbs will need to dry out a bit before harvesting.
Garlic bulbs are ready for harvest when most of the lower leaves have browned and shriveled. There should still be green leaves on the upper part of the plant.
If you wait too long to harvest, the cloves will begin to separate and the head won't be tight and will have a shorter shelf life.
Harvest from fall plantings will probably be in late July or August. At this time you may dig the bulbs up, being careful not to bruise them.
Lay the garlic plants out to dry for 2 or 3 weeks in a shady area with good air circulation. When the roots feel brittle and dry, rub them off, along with any loose dirt.
Bulbs should be stored in a cool (40 degrees F), dark, dry place, and can be kept in the same way for several months. Don’t store in your basement if it’s moist!
Do not store garlic in the refrigerator! Garlic will sprout in the fridge!
The flavor will intensify as the bulbs dry out. Properly stored, garlic should last until the next crop is harvested the following summer.
If you plan on planting garlic again next season, save some of your largest, best-formed bulbs to plant again in the fall.