Garlic is an indispensable herb for cooking. Just about every recipe for a savory dish includes sliced garlic, chopped garlic, smashed garlic, garlic flakes, garlic powder or garlic salt. Garlic is a member of the lily family and is a relative of leeks, chives, onions and shallots.
How to Grow Garlic
In our region, garlic is planted in fall for a summer harvest. Select fresh garlic seed from the Garden Center and choose from hardneck, softneck or elephant varieties. Look for fresh, unblemished bulbs that don’t have any soft spots or other problems.
One pound of garlic bulbs will yield between 8-10 pounds of harvested garlic (a 25-foot row with 4 inches of space between plants.)
For the best results, avoid planting garlic where garlic, onions or other alliums were grown in the previous 3 years to prevent spreading plant diseases.
- Locate a sunny spot that will be convenient for growing and harvesting in spring. Prepare the planting bed by digging in compost to create a rich, well-draining and very loose soil. If the soil is too dense or compacted, bulbs will be small.
- Separate the cloves from the garlic bulb carefully. Soak large cloves overnight in Liquid Kelp before planting to help the garlic start growing quickly. Plant as soon as possible to keep cloves from drying out.
- Plant garlic 4-6 weeks before the first hard freeze so the garlic can start to root and grow. For large finished garlic bulbs, plant only the largest cloves; use the smaller cloves in cooking.
- Place each clove 1-2 inches deep, pointed end up, and 4-6 inches apart. Rows should be 12-24 inches apart.
- Cover with 2 inches of soil, water thoroughly and add a thick layer of organic mulch. Straw, chopped leaves or dry, untreated grass clippings will help retain soil moisture.
- If the weather is especially dry over winter, water the garlic when temperatures are warm and there’s no snow cover.
- In spring, once the danger of frost has passed, remove the thick mulch from the garlic bed. Water well and then water to maintain good soil moisture.
- Feed the garlic crop with either a composted manure or a well-balanced fertilizer as bulbs begin to grow. Be sure to keep the garlic bed weeded to avoid competition for space and nutrients.
- If you planted hardneck garlic, watch for the tall flower stalks called scapes to emerge and cut them while they’re still young and tender. Bulbs will grow larger if the plant’s energy isn’t spent on producing a stalk and aerial cloves called bulbils. Leave one scape intact; when the scape unfurls, the garlic is ready to harvest.
- Use any of the cut scapes for grilling, sautéing or stir-frying.
- When garlic leaves start to turn yellow in the summer, stop watering. Wait about 2 weeks for the bottom leaves to turn brown, then carefully use a garden fork to lift the entire plant from the soil. Be sure not to damage the soft bulbs during harvest.
- Cure the fresh garlic by placing plants in the shade, not the sun. Creative gardeners tie the garlic into bunches or braids to hang in a cool dark place to cure.
- Once cured, store garlic bulbs in a mesh bag to allow for air circulation. Hardneck garlic will store for 6 months; softneck will store longer.
Plant garlic with these companions:
- Fruit trees
Avoid planting near peas and beans
Materials for Success
- Soil thermometer
- High-quality compost and manure
- Assorted varieties of seed garlic bulbs
- Liquid kelp
- Organic mulch
- Balanced nitrogen fertilizer
- Garden fork
To learn more about growing garlic or about growing your own edible vegetable garden, contact the pros at Nick’s Garden Center.