Fall is the best time to plant garlic, though some parts of the deep south can get a fair harvest from early spring plantings. Garlic needs a lot of full sun, but it might tolerate partial shade provided it's not for very long during the day or growing season. The soil must be well dug over and crumbly. Sandy loam is best. Before adding nutrients to your soil, you should know what is already there. If you haven't done a soil test, contact your local county extension office for a soil sampling kit. When you have received your garlic for planting, gently separate the cloves from each other, leaving the paper intact. Push each clove into the soil pointy end up and about two inches deep. Softneck varieties should be planted 10-12” apart, and hardneck varieties should be planted 8-10” apart. Fertilize at the time of planting with compost or something high in nitrogen if your soil is lacking, like kelp meal. Cover you plantings with 3-4” of your mulch of choice. Good options are hay, dry leaves, straw, compost, well-rotted manure, or well-rotted grass clippings. In the fall, we are mainly concerned with root development before it goes dormant for the winter. Some varieties may put off some green top growth and others will not sprout until spring. Water if dry for the first few weeks after planting, but you should hold off in winter while it is dormant. Natural rainfall should be enough. Plan on fertilizing again in spring, sometime in April as growth comes on strongly to encourage large bulbing.
Hardneck garlic will produce scapes that you should trim and eat as a separate harvest. Cutting off the scapes will encourage the plant to produce bigger bulbs. Looking for signs of readiness to harvest takes some practice, but we generally look for the beginning of yellowing of the leaves and will gently pop up a bulb to gauge its size. When it is time to harvest, use your garden fork to gently loosen the soil from below the bulbs and push up from underneath. Pulling the greens will often cause breakage which will affect the storability. The plants should be kept complete and unwashed, and hung up to "cure" for two weeks. The ideal temperature is 80°F for curing. Once cured, the outer flaky layers of the bulb can be brushed off, leaving clean skin below. Trim the tops and the roots, and store in a cool, dry place. Washing garlic will prolong the curing process and potentially cause it to rot. Also, if the garlic is not cured, it will rot quickly in the pantry.
Garlic, Allium sativum
Pollination, vegetative; Life Cycle, annual; Isolation Distance, n/a
Garlic is one of the few plants that is not raised from seeds. Instead it is propagated by dividing the bulbs and planting the individual cloves. After harvest the bulbs enter a period of rest followed by a period of dormancy during which sprouting will occur once temperature and humidity have reached the necessary range. Cloves are planted in autumn to grow during winter and spring for harvest in summer. A few interested individuals are doing extensive work to try and breed garlic to produce fertile flowers again, but until they are successful, we must grow garlic through clonal reproduction, ie. planting the cloves, or by planting the bulbils that form from the flower heads, though this method can take several years.