Hoe or till the planting bed a few weeks before planting to kill any weeds. Hoe again at planting time. If your soil is heavy or your region is prone to a rainy spring, create hills or raised beds for planting. This allows for better drainage.
Garlic can bruise easily, so be very gentle when handling the bulbs during planting, harvest, and storage. Store your garlic in a cool, dry place until you are ready to plant.
When to Plant
For most parts of the US, you should plant your seed garlic in October. If you are very far north, you may need to plant mid-Sept. If you are very far south, it may be December or January. You should check with your local Agricultural Extension Office for information about the best planting time for your region.
How to Plant
When you receive your seed garlic it will either be as loose cloves or whole bulbs. If it is whole bulbs, then you want to “pop” the cloves. This means removing the outer paper and separating the individual cloves. Don’t unwrap each clove, although if the clove skin comes off, it’s still fine to plant. Lightly squeeze the bulb to check for damage or softness – if you find some, those cloves should not be planted. With any garlic bulb there are always 1 to 3 naturally occurring very small cloves. Only plant the big fat ones for bulbs and save the little ones for eating. You could also plant them close together and harvest early as garlic scallions. Plant them pointy-end up/root-end down about 2” deep, spaced about 5” apart.
Mulch heavily for the winter. This will help prevent weeds and reduce or eliminate the need for irrigation by keeping in soil moisture.
Garlic benefits from a good all-around fertilizer mixed in with the soil at planting time. Ideally, use a slow-release granulated formula that will gradually feed the bulbs through the winter. A second top dressing in the early spring, before leaf growth begins, will give the plants an extra boost.
Harvest the scape in spring by snapping off the tendril at the point where it comes out of the plant stalk. Do not let the plant flower or it will reduce the bulb size. Pull bulbs when there are only 5 or 6 green leaves left on the plant. Don’t wait too long or the bulb will begin to split!
Pull bulbs when there are 5 green leaves left. (Softneck garlic does not produce a scape.)
Sometimes the plants make a flower stalk – snap that off if it appears. Pull bulbs when the edges of the leaves begin to brown but are still quite green.
Curing and Storage
Do not wash garlic at harvest time! Instead, just brush off whatever soil is stuck to the bulbs and let the rest dry on the plant. Store the whole plants in a cool dry place with good air flow, either laid out flat or hanging in small bunches. Good air flow is very important to prevent mold. After about 6 weeks, when the plants are thoroughly dry, clip the stalk and trim the roots.