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Tips For Growing Garlic – It’s Easy!

Fall is the time to plant garlic. Here's what you need to know to prepare now for an abundant crop next summer!

In early autumn, when thoughts turn from vegetable gardening and move reluctantly toward preparations for winter, there’s still one crop that can be planted: garlic. Depending on where you live, garlic is usually planted during the first or second week in October, covered in at least 6 inches of a good mulch of shredded leaves or grass clippings, and harvested the following July.

Can I Grow Grocery Store Garlic?

It’s not advised to use supermarket garlic—unless you know it was locally grown. This “softneck” garlic may have been treated with sprouting inhibitors. If you want to grow from a supermarket bulb, find one organic and locally grown.

How To Grow Garlic

Get the dirt! Getting the soil ready is an important and often neglected prerequisite for successful garlic growing. Although garlic evolved in poor soils (most likely in the desert regions of Siberia), application of organic matter to the soil prior to planting will definitely increase your yield. Late summer is the best time to add compost or well-rotted manure to the site where you intend to plant. To prevent weed growth between when you are finished with preparations and when you plant, cover the bed with black plastic or heavy mulch. You can add a little more nitrogen to your garlic bed in the spring in the form of compost or rotted manure, but lay off after that; too much nitrogen may cause premature yellowing of the leaves.

Divide and conquer! When you’re ready to plant, it’s best to divide your garlic bulbs into cloves before starting. Plant the cloves 6-8 inches apart, with the pointed end of the clove facing up, in rows or double rows with room to weed in between. You may have to remove some of the mulch in the spring if it is compacted and impedes your plants’ growth. Often, though, the mulch breaks down enough over the winter to allow the garlic to push through.

Bug free! Planting garlic is a joy because the days are crisp and cool and there are few bugs to intrude on your revery. There are few pests that bother garlic. In fact, it may even deter some insect invaders and is often used in companion plantings to protect other plants from pests.

rows of garden garlic

Choose your favorite! Selecting the type of garlic you want to plant is a matter of individual taste, but be aware that there are many species of garlic out there other than the California white you usually see at the supermarket. There are dozens of exotic varieties available with names like Russian Red, Purple Stripe Porcelain, Rosewood, Kabar and on and on. So-called “hardneck” varieties develop a flowerhead on the stem called a “scape,” which curls and then extends upward, eventually becoming woody (hence the name “hardneck”).

Great ‘scapes! Garlic scapes are considered a delicacy in their own right. They are harvested soon after they appear, and are often sold in bunches at farmers’ markets.

garlic scapes

Off with their heads! Cutting the flowerheads off of garlic when they appear also allows more of the plant’s energy to go into producing larger bulbs. Many commercial operations “pop the tops” off of their garlic for this reason.

Harvesting Tips

Your garlic is ready to harvest once the cloves have distinctly formed. When the bottom leaves of the plant turn brown, it’s usually a good indication that the bulbs have nicely divided into cloves. You will need to cure the harvested bulbs by hanging the whole plants in bunches in a dry, airy location for a couple of weeks. A barn, garage, or shed is ideal, but you can also lay them on a screen under cover of a tarp or porch roof. Once your garlic has cured, trim off the stem and store at room temperature, because refrigerated garlic tends to sprout more quickly.

So, get planting this fall for a gourmet treat next summer!

Visit our Gardening By The Moon Calendar online here!

Love cooking with garlic? See the winning dishes from our 2018 garlic recipe contest here! 

Paul Robert lives in Hartford, Maine, with his dog Raymond. He has been an organic gardener for over 35 years, and raises some poultry as well. His special interest is trees. Several kinds of oak and elm, as well as Korean mountain ash, American and Chinese chestnut, persimmons and many other specimens grow on his 1.6 acre mini-farm. He may be contacted at [email protected]

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Louis

I live in Winnipeg Canada can I grow garlic in an above ground bed or container?

liz

I’ve got all my garlic dried and waiting. Pskem,Bogatyr,Georgian Fire, Marino are some of the varieties I grow. Easy crop. Garlic isn’t bothered by much.

Betty

Thanks for this info, my Daddy raised some kind of garlic, it was a solid bulb and it would have little marble size bulbs on the roots which would come up each year. My husband didn’t think it was garlic but as you stated there are so many different ones, and it sure smelled and tasted like garlic, but since it has died out I do believe I will save a couple of cloves and plant my own garlic. Again Thanks…….Betty

CARMEN ALICIA

do i have to peel of the garlic clove before planting and do i plant it with the pointy part up or
down. and how deep should i planted. thank you for your advice

Paul

I grow my own garlic. The garlic you buy at the grocery store is from China.

Hope

Thanks for this helpful information about hardneck garlic…but how does the hardneck variety differ from the softneck…does the softneck not bloom? I already have garlic (hardneck) on order; should be here (Phoenix, AZ) around the middle of August, and I had planned to plant it immediately, since the company from which it is ordered states it ‘will be shipped in time for planting’. Since reading your advice I now know to hold off till cooler temperatures have arrived.

Emily

Love this! Thanks for the info and the reminder to plant. More blogs like this please!!! 😉

Ms' Barbara

Can garlic be eaten as soon as it comes out of the ground or do I need to wait? And what is the best way to store it? Thanks

canteenj

can garlic be planted any time other than fall?

jachale

if I plant garlic will I get a clove or just an onion looking plant?

Jaime McLeod

It comes out looking much the way it looks when you buy it at the grocery store (only dirtier): several cloves under a papery skin.

Labiba

Thanks for your advice which I usually follow.

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