Softnecks get their name because the whole green plant dies down, leaving nothing but the bulb and flexible stems that are easy to braid. Hardnecks have a stiff stem in the center that terminates in a beautiful flower — or cluster of little bulbs — and then dries to a rigid stick that makes braiding impossible.

Softnecks, standard in grocery stores, are the easiest to grow in mild regions. They keep longer than hardnecks, but they’re less hardy and produce small, strong-flavored cloves. Hardnecks do best where there’s a real winter since they’re more vulnerable to splitting — or simply refusing to produce — in warm climates.

Gardeners in most of the U.S. can try some of both. Specialty sellers will suggest best bets based on your climate and tastes (check out your gardening zones here). It’s also wise to get some seed stock from your local farmer’s’ market. Whatever that garlic is, it’s growing where you are.


2. Planting Garlic

Mid-fall, plant garlic bulbs in loose, fertile soil that’s as weed-free as possible. Insert cloves root-side down about 8 inches apart in all directions, burying the tips about 2 inches down. Green shoots will come up; mulch around them with straw. After a hard freeze kills the shoots, draw the mulch over the whole bed.

In spring, pull the mulch back when the new shoots emerge. Give them a shot of mixed fish emulsion and liquid seaweed. Keep them weeded. Water only if the soil is dry 2 or more inches down, never pouring water into the crowns of the plants.

3. Cutting Garlic Scapes

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I spent most of my gardening life cutting off the flowering scapes of hardneck garlic so they wouldn’t draw energy from the bulbs. Then I read a story about a garlic growing guru who said it didn’t matter a whit.

Well, it isn’t really much bother. Tender young scapes are delicious and older, curly ones look wonderful in the vase. I set up an experiment, allotting 30 spaces each, in two rows, and planting the same variety in both of them. When the garlic were about half-grown, we set about cutting the scapes, but only from one row of the plants. At harvest, after trimming, we got 5 pounds of garlic out of the cut row, 6.5 pounds out of the one we left alone.

Tips for Cutting Garlic Scapes

1. There’s no harm in taking a few to eat, but don’t wait until they’re large. Most of the scapes for sale are bigger than the 4 to 6 inches long; they should be that length for best flavor and texture.

2. You can cut some for a vase too, but don’t take them too soon. If you wait until the tops are well-developed, you might get a head of tiny garlic grains that can be used whole and unpeeled in place of minced garlic. Or you’ll find a clump of small round bulbs, called topsets, that can be stored all winter long and planted close together in early spring, producing the garlic equivalent of scallions.

4. Harvesting Garlic

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Garlic varieties are divided into early, midseason, and late, depending on your climate zone and the weather during the growing year. Heat speeds them up, cold slows them down. Although the harvest window is wide if you plan to eat the garlic fresh, it’s narrow if you want to ensure maximum storage life.

The bulbs are ready when most of the lower leaves have browned. The upper ones will still look green. “Lift the bulbs” usually describes moving things like daffodils, but it’s also a good way to think about harvesting garlic. Those heads are more delicate than they seem.

Choose an overcast day when the soil is dry. Loosen the soil with a digging fork, inserting it well away from the heads, then lift them out of the row and place them in a flat carrier.

5. Curing Garlic

Let the whole plants dry in a single layer out of the sun, where it’s warm but not hot. When the outer skin is papery, brush off as much dirt as possible and clip the roots. Rush this a bit if you’re braiding garlic stems. If you wait until they’re completely dry, they tend to crack and break.

The finished garlic will still look dirty compared to anything commercial. Leave it that way because further cleanup can shorten storage life. If you can’t bear the way it looks, try removing the outer layer of wrapper.

6. Storing Garlic

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The ideal temperature is between 55 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with moderate humidity and good air circulation, in the light, but they must be out of the sun. We keep our garlic stored in an unheated, but insulated, closet. Those less-fortunate in the storage department should avoid the refrigerator (excess cold leads to sprouting) and plastic bags, which can cause rot.

Has Your Garlic Sprouted? Plant It in the Ground to Harvest Green Garlic in the Spring

Photo by Kate Ter Haar/Flickr/Creative Commons

Watch the California Matters episode about UC Santa Cruz Farm, a pioneering, organic farm that’s benefiting an entire community.

At some point, we’ve probably all forgotten about those last few cloves of garlic lingering in the bottoms of baskets or the backs of cupboards. And we probably found them again weeks later, only to see green shoots sprouting out of the cloves. Or maybe we didn’t realize that we shouldn’t store garlic in the fridge, as the cold temperature triggers it to sprout.

Either way, sprouted garlic still has a use in the home, so don’t toss it just yet! If the shoot is small and the clove hasn’t turned soft, you can simply chop them together to add to whatever you’re cooking. The shoot is edible, contrary to old wives’ tales that it could make you sick, and it actually becomes milder in flavor as it grows. In fact, sprouted garlic produces delicious shoots (called green garlic or baby garlic) that are considered a farmers’ market delicacy.

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You’ll usually find green garlic in late winter or early spring when farmers are thinning out their garlic crops. It’s essentially an immature garlic whose head hasn’t yet divided into cloves. While garlic as we know it is harvested in the summer, green garlic is harvested a few months earlier in the spring. It looks similar to a scallion, but with a larger bulb. The plant is edible from top to bottom, cooked or raw, and has a mild garlic flavor that won’t overwhelm a dish. You can use the green shoots the way you’d use chives to garnish potatoes and soups. You can roast the bulbs with root vegetables (they turn sweeter as they caramelize) or grill the whole plant with a steak.

Green garlic has many uses in the kitchen, and it’s incredibly easy to grow from your store-bought sprouted garlic. Even if your garlic hasn’t sprouted, there’s a good chance it will once it’s in the soil, so don’t be afraid to try!

First, separate all the cloves but do not peel them. You want the thin papery layer intact when you plant them.

In a sunny area with well-draining soil, plant each clove (pointy tip or green sprout facing up) about one inch deep. Space the cloves two inches apart and keep the soil moist (but not soggy) while the shoots are growing.

Photo by willholmes/Flickr/Creative Commons

You can begin to harvest the shoots (cutting off the tips as desired) once they’re about four inches tall, but never harvest more than a third of the plant. For maximum reward, however, I recommend waiting until the shoots reach at least eight to ten inches in height (about three months) and then harvesting the entire plant at once.

What’s even more convenient is that you don’t actually need a backyard to grow green garlic. Plant a few cloves in a container right alongside your basil and parsley, and enjoy fresh shoots from your windowsill!


Garlic is a member of the allium family. It is an ancient bulbous vegetable. Garlic is easy to grow and requires very little space in the garden. Garlic grows from individual cloves broken off from a whole bulb. Each clove will multiply in the ground, forming a new bulb that consists of 5-10 cloves. Garlic tastes great roasted or used as a flavoring in many recipes.

Garlic Varieties Available Exclusively at Burpee:

  • Garlikins “Green Garlic”
  • Northern Favorites Fall Garlic Collection
  • Southern Favorites Fall Garlic Collection

Where to Plant Garlic

Garlic should be planted in a spot not recently used for garlic or other plants from the onion family. Do not plant garlic in areas where water can collect around the roots, causing them to rot or become diseased.

Soil Preparation for Garlic

Garlic should be planted in a fertile, well-drained soil. A raised bed works very well. Remove stones from the top 6 inches of soil. Work several inches of compost or well-rotted manure into the bed, along with 10-10-10 fertilizer.

How to Plant Garlic

Planting garlic is relatively simple. Separate cloves. Space the cloves 4-6″ apart. Rows should be spaced one foot apart. The cloves should be planted with the pointed end up and the blunt end down. Push each clove 1-2″ into the ground, firm the soil around it, and water the bed if it is dry.

When to Plant Garlic

Fall Planting

Plant cloves in mid-autumn in a sunny location with rich, well-drained soil. Set cloves root side down 4-6″ apart in rows 1-1/2 to 2′ apart, and cover with 1-2″ of fine soil. In the North, put down 6″ of mulch for winter protection. Garlic may begin growth late in fall or early in spring.

Spring Planting

Plant cloves as early in spring as soil can be worked, about the same time as onion sets. Spring planted garlic should be put in the ground in the same manner as in the fall.


After planting, lay down a protective mulch of straw, chopped leaves or grass clippings. In cold-winter regions the mulch should be approximately 4 inches thick. Mulch will help to prevent the garlic roots from being heaved out of the ground by alternate freezing and thawing. A light application of mulch is useful in milder climates to control the growth of winter weeds.

Spring Care

When the leaves begin to grow, it is important to feed the garlic plants to encourage good growth. A teaspoon or two of a high-nitrogen fertilizer that decomposes slowly, such as blood meal or Osmocote should be gently worked into the soil near each plant. If the mulch has decomposed, add a layer to help retain moisture and keep weeds under control. In late spring some garlic varieties produce flower stalks that have small bulbils. Cut these stalks off. This will insure that all of the food the plant produces will go into the garlic bulb itself and not the clusters of bulbils. In the month of June the garlic plants stop producing new leaves and begin to form bulbs. At this time you will remove any remaining mulch and stop watering. The garlic will store better if you allow the soil around the bulbs to dry out.

When to Harvest Garlic and Proper Storage Methods:

You will know when to harvest garlic when most of the leaves have turned brown. This usually occurs in mid-July to early August, depending on your climate. At this time you may dig the bulbs up, being careful not to bruise them. If the bulbs are left in the ground too long, they may separate and will not store well. Lay the garlic plants out to dry for 2 or 3 weeks in a shady area with good air circulation. Be sure to bring the garlic plants in if rain is forecasted for your area. When the roots feel brittle and dry, rub them off, along with any loose dirt. Do not get the bulbs wet or break them apart, or the plants won’t last as long.

Either tie the garlic in bunches, braid the leaves, or cut the stem a few inches above the bulb. Hang the braids and bunches or store the loose bulbs on screens or slatted shelves in a cool, airy location. You may want to set aside some of the largest bulbs for replanting in the fall.

During the winter months you should check your stored garlic bulbs often, and promptly use any that show signs of sprouting.

Each set (bulb) is made up of several sections called cloves, held together by a thin, papery covering. Before planting, break cloves apart.

Garlic Harvesting and Storage

In late summer, bend over tops to hasten yellowing and drying of tops. Then pull up the garlic plants and allow them to dry in sun a few hours. Spread out in a well-ventilated place until tops are thoroughly dry (2-3 weeks). Cut tops off 1-2″ above garlic bulbs, or braid tops together into strings. Store loose bulbs in a dry, cool, airy place in baskets; hang garlic strings.

Garlic is best planted before winter in many areas. It’s very easy to grow; all it needs to thrive is a sunny spot and good drainage. In this video, we demonstrate how to plant, harvest, and store these beautiful bulbs so you can enjoy perfect garlic every time.

Gorgeous garlic packs a pungent punch, making it an indispensable addition to so many recipes—and every vegetable garden.

There are two types of garlic: ‘hardneck’ and ‘softneck’.

  • Hardneck varieties produce edible scapes (flower stems) which should be cut off to promote plumper bulbs. The scapes have a mild garlic taste that is great in salads and stir-fries. Hardneck varieties are more tolerant of cold weather than softneck types.
  • Softneck varieties don’t produce scapes but store for longer than hardnecks.

Originating from central Asia, garlic loves a sunny location in fertile, free-draining soil. You can improve your soil by digging in plenty of well-rotted organic matter, such as garden compost, a few months before planting.

Plant garlic in the fall. Choose a sunny location and rich and well-drained, soil. Our Garden Planner can help you find out the best times to plant in your area. Add garlic to your plan then take a look at the Plant List to see recommended planting and expected harvesting times.

To plant your garlic, gently break apart the bulb into individual cloves. Plant them about six inches apart, leaving a foot between rows. Cover with soil so the tips are just below the surface. If birds pull up the cloves, replant them and protect them with a row cover to prevent it happening again.

In very cold areas, plant garlic cloves in plug trays and keep them under cover until spring.

You can also grow garlic in containers at least eight inches wide. Plant the cloves so they are four to six inches apart in each direction. Place the container in a sunny spot, and water in dry weather.

Caring for Garlic

Garlic needs very little attention during the growing season. Water if the weather is dry, and keep the spaces between the rows well weeded. Adding an organic mulch (e.g. grass clippings) occasionally will help to feed plants and keep the soil cool and moist.

How to Harvest Garlic

Harvest garlic when the leaves have begun to turn yellow in summer. Ease the bulbs out of the soil using a fork or trowel. Dry them out somewhere warm and airy. Once dry, brush off any remaining soil and cut off the leaves. Store the bulbs in a cool, dry place on wire racks, or plait the leaves and use them to hang up strings of garlic. Garlic bulbs should store for at least three months.

For more information, see the Almanac’s Garlic Growing Guide.

Plan the perfect garden! We’d love to welcome you to our Almanac Garden Planner.

How to Grow Garlic

  • • Plant each clove at a depth of 2.5cm and space them about 10-15cm apart. Allow space for the bulbs to swell, so don’t plant them too close to the container edge.
  • • Keep the compost moist, especially during dry spells.
  • You can also grow garlic indoors on a windowsill for its leaves, which have a mild and aromatic flavour and can be added to soups, curries and stir fries. Harvest the leaves as required until the bulb has been exhausted. However, growing garlic indoors isn’t the best method for cultivating good quality bulbs.

    How to care for garlic

    Weed regularly to keep your garlic happy.
    Image: Swellphotography

    Garlic is not very demanding, but it is vulnerable to birds who love to pull freshly-planted sets out of the ground. It’s a good idea to cover the area with netting or horticultural fleece after planting.

    As it doesn’t create much shade, garlic can also get smothered quickly by weeds. Weed regularly to prevent competition for space and nutrients.

    You only need to water your garlic during long dry spells. If you notice flowers forming you can remove them or leave them intact; either way, it should not affect the swelling of the bulb.

    How and when to harvest garlic

    Garlic is usually ready to harvest in early summer.
    Image: yuris

    Autumn-planted garlic will be ready to harvest in June and July and spring-planted garlic will be ready slightly later. Simply wait until the leaves have started to wither and turn yellow, and then loosen the bulbs from the soil with a trowel.

    Be careful not to cut the garlic bulbs with your trowel as this will reduce their storage potential. Also don’t leave the bulbs in the ground too long after the leaves have withered as the bulbs are likely to re-sprout and may rot when stored.

    Before storing them, lay the garlic bulbs out somewhere warm and dry. Any dry soil left on the bulbs can be gently brushed off. In good condition, garlic bulbs can be stored for up to three months.

    Common garlic problems to watch out for

    Garlic is fairly low maintenance, but there are two diseases to look out for
    Image: Andrew Pustiakin

    Garlic is normally trouble-free, but there are two diseases to watch out for: rust and white rot.

    Rust appears as rusty-coloured spots on the leaves. Unfortunately, the only thing you can do is avoid growing garlic in the same place for three years; there’s no cure for rust.

    Garlic can also be affected by white rot, which decays the roots and eventually the bulb. Again there is no cure apart from crop rotation.

    Top tips for growing garlic

    Growing garlic is pretty easy and the results taste unlike anything you’d get in the average supermarket. The main things to remember are:

    • • Buy garlic bulbs from a reputable garden supplier, not a supermarket.
    • • Plant before Christmas, if you can.
    • • Don’t plant in soil that’s recently been used for any allium plants.
    • • Don’t water-log the bulbs.
    • • Weed regularly.

    Watch: How to grow garlic in containers video

    So that’s it in a nutshell, everything you need to know about garlic. Happy growing!

    Do you have any tips for growing garlic? We’d love to hear them – head over to our Facebook page and share with our ‘grow your own’ community.

    Why Buy Garlic Cloves?

    Grey Duck Garlic is unique in that we offer our customers presorted large and medium organic garlic cloves. Garlic cloves are a great way for growers to save time and money while receiving a quality product.

    Seven reasons Grey Duck Garlic presorted garlic cloves are a good deal:

    1) You receive only premium planting size seed cloves that will produce larger garlic bulbs (your choice of medium or large cloves).

    Picture: Uniform Romanian Red cloves will produce nice large bulbs.

    Size of clove makes a huge difference. Susan has done several field trials and larger cloves consistently produce much larger garlic. If your market depends on premium size bulbs plant large cloves only. We have dramatically increased the diameter and weight of our planting stock by only planting the largest cloves each year. It takes the same amount of time to weed and harvest a small garlic as a large one.

    2) You will not have to clove and sort the garlic which will save you time and the cost of labor.

    You receive only healthy, plump, ready to plant cloves. We carefully inspect the cloves before we send them out to you. This saves you the time and trouble of popping bulbs, inspecting cloves and sorting cloves.

    3) You will save money since there will be zero waste.

    Cloves have no waste. Garlic bulbs usually have about 5-11% waste depending on the garlic variety; plus you will usually have some cloves that are too small to plant (some garlic has more small cloves than others; this really depends on the garlic variety).

    4) Uniform cloves will give you a more uniform crop.

    This is important if you are reselling your crop. Restaurants, in particular, often appreciate a uniform or graded crop.

    Picture: Uniform garlic plants grown from cloves sorted by size.

    5) Garlic harvest time depends on size of garlic.

    Larger garlic takes longer to mature than smaller garlic. When you plant uniform cloves all garlic can be harvested on the same date.

    We really notice this when we are selecting for a new (to us) garlic variety. Harvest can be very variable since we plant all the cloves.

    6) Shipping is less on cloves than bulbs since more cloves can fit into a box.

    When you buy presorted cloves they are ready to put in the ground the day they arrive. If you aren’t ready to plant when they arrive don’t panic. Cloves can be stored in a cool area for several weeks before planting.

    Make sure to specify when you will be planting when you order so we can ship your garlic at the right time for you.

    How To Grow Garlic In Warmer Climates

    Garlic is a bulb and because it is a bulb, most garlic varieties need to have a certain amount of cold weather to form the tasty bulbs we like to eat. For gardeners in warmer climates, this can be a frustrating fact, but not one that needs to keep them from growing garlic in the garden. A little knowledge about garlic and garlic varieties is all it takes to know how to grow garlic successfully in warmer climates.

    Garlic Varieties

    Gardeners in warmer climates, USDA zones 7-9, will have a difficult time growing garlic in the garden from just any garlic varieties. Most likely you will want to look for some of the gourmet or heirloom cultivars that grow well in warmer weather. These cultivars include:

    • Creoles
    • Asiatic
    • Hardnecks
    • Marbled Purple Stripe

    These cultivars may not be available at your local garden center but can be found online at many reputable online garlic dealers.

    When and how to plant garlic in warmer climates is a bit different than in cooler climates. For one, you can plant the garlic later and for two, you can harvest it sooner. Plan to plant your garlic in late October through early December.

    When you plant your garlic, what you will be doing is growing garlic from cloves, so take one clove off the bulb and plant it into the prepared bed. Remember, just like flower bulbs, the pointy end of the clove goes up. You will want to plant the garlic clove about 8 to 10 inches down in the dirt. Space them about 6 to 8 inches apart.

    How Does Garlic Grow in the Winter?

    In warmer climates, you can expect to see growth from your garlic all winter long. This will appear in the form of garlic greens coming from the clove. In cooler climates, the greens don’t grow until spring. Don’t worry about the occasional drop in temperature, as garlic and its greens are more than able to handle the cold.

    When to Harvest Garlic

    In late spring or early summer, your garlic plant will start to flower. Let it flower. Once the flower is dead and the leaves have browned one-half to two-thirds of the way down the stem, dig up your garlic. This should happen no later than July.

    Once you have harvested your garlic, you can store it and save some for growing garlic from cloves again in a few months.

    The mystery of how to grow garlic in warmer climates is not really a mystery at all. With the right varieties and the right planting schedule, you too can be growing garlic in the garden.

    July’s Organic Gardening Tip: Why You Should Plant Garlic Bulbs

    Looking to make the most out of your garden? Flower beds might give your lawn a great aesthetic, but odds are you won’t be using most of them in the kitchen. Garlic, on the other hand, is easy to grow at home and can become a flavor component of almost any meal. Garlic is a relatively simple plant to care for, even for those without a green thumb. More importantly, garlic works as a natural pest repellent, helping to keep your flowers free of unwanted bugs. So why not plant this versatile vegetable today?

    Planting Garlic
    The main challenge of growing garlic is that it takes some patience. It is recommended to plant garlic four to six weeks before the ground freezes, around October or November. The garlic bulbs won’t be ready for harvesting until next summer. Make a note of where you plant your garlic to make sure not to try and put other plants in the same place come springtime.

    Garlic should be planted in raised beds if possible, as too much stagnant water can cause the roots to rot. Make sure the garlic in an area that gets full sunlight as it will not prosper in shade. Loamy, slightly acidic soil is best for this vegetable.

    Any avid cook is well familiar with garlic cloves. The cloves are sections (of what?) that can be pulled off the bulb and be planted to form a new garlic bulb. Garlic bulbs from the grocery store, in regards to sprouting, will likely not be as successful as those ordered from a seed company. Take the garlic bulb and separate the cloves several days before planting them, but do not remove the skin as you would if you were cooking with them. Bury the garlic two inches below the ground and spread each clove several inches apart. In the spring, shoots should stem up from the ground.

    Gardeners in colder regions should mulch the area where garlic is planted before winter to prevent the bulbs from dying in the cold temperatures. In the springtime when green is sprouting, remove the mulch to give the garlic full sunlight.

    By June, your garlic should sprout flowery stalks called scapes. Remove these stalks to encourage the bulbs to grow. Scapes can be used for a variety of culinary purposes.

    Two Basic Types of Garlic

    • Hardneck: This type of garlic is grown mostly in the northeast. Hardneck garlic has larger cloves and a stiff stalk, making it great for culinary use. However, hardneck garlic does not have a long shelf life when compared to softneck garlic, which is why many gardeners choose to grow both varieties.
    • Softneck: Garlic with this designation has more cloves per bulb and a softer stalk. It has a long shelf life, which is why softneck garlic is the variety most found in grocery outlets.

    Pest Repellent
    Garlic is a great organic pest repellent for your garden. The bulbs themselves will keep undesirable insects away from your flowers while they grow, but it can also be used once it is harvested. Mince several cloves of garlic and mix them with a couple teaspoons of mineral oil. Then strain out the garlic and add the oil to water and mix with a splash of dish soap to create a natural bug repellant. The compounds found in garlic repel many flower-killing insects, such as aphids and beetles. The soap and oil encourage the mixture to stick to your plants, but don’t apply it on a hot, sunny day, because the hot oil could be harmful to your flowers.

    Plant garlic in late summer or fall and allow it to overwinter for a harvest of large bulbs next summer.

    Best Times to Plant Garlic

    • Plant garlic in late summer or fall and allow it to overwinter for a harvest of large bulbs next summer. Plant garlic in the spring and harvest it in the fa ll for smaller bulbs (and usually a small yield).

    • Late summer or fall planted garlic should be in the ground about a month or so before the soil freezes. In warm-winter regions, garlic can be planted in early winter.

    • Elephant garlic—a very large cultivar and mild flavored—should be planted in late summer allowing time for it to make root growth before cold weather comes.

    Protect fall planted garlic with mulch—a thick layer of straw or leaves—to protect bulbs from freezing or heaving ground. Be sure to mulch the garlic bed before the ground freezes. If you live in a very cold winter region, no amount of mulch may protect bulbs so it may be best to plant in spring as soon as the soil can be worked.

    Choose large cloves for planting in fall to produce large bulbs next summer. Small cloves can be planted in spring to grow green garlic for summer harvest.

    Garlic Planting. Break a garlic bulb into individual cloves; plant individual cloves with the points facing up—blunt end down. Grow garlic in compost rich soil in full sun. Set cloves 4 to 6 inches apart and push cloves 2 inches beneath the soil surface.

    Temperature. Garlic germinates in soil temperature of 55°F and grows best in soil temperatures ranging from 55°F to 75°F (13-24°C). Garlic that has established roots will overwinter best.

    Mulch. Leave winter mulch in place until spring when daffodils break the soil, then pull mulch back from the garlic bed and spread aged compost across the bed. Thick compost will protect the soil around garlic from drying, or reapply the mulch.

    Spring flowers. Garlic will send up a center stalk in spring and a flower bud will develop; snip off the bud to redirect the plant’s energy from producing seed to producing a larger-sized bulb.

    Feeding and Watering Garlic. Encourage leafy growth by applying a foliar seaweed or fish emulsion spray every two weeks beginning in spring. Keep the soil evenly moist from spring through early summer for best bulb formation; letting the growing bed go dry will hinder bulb development. Keep weeds out of the garden; they will rob garlic of soil moisture and nutrients.

    Garlic Harvest. Garlic is ready for harvest when leaves turn brown and begin to die back. Lift bulbs with a garden fork and let them cure in a hot, dry, dark and airy place for a few weeks.

    Types of Garlic to Grow:

    • Hardneck or rocambole type garlic grows best in cold-winter regions and produces larger bulbs than softneck types. Hardneck bulbs are strong flavored but do not store well. Reliable hardneck varieties include: German Red, Spanish Roja, German Extra Hardy, and Russian Red.

    • Softneck or artichoke type garlic produce several layers of small cloves and store well for winter use. Reliable softneck varieties include: California Late, Early Italian Red, and New York White.

    • Elephant garlic produces very large cloves and is milder tasting than other varieties.

    More tips: How to Grow Garlic.

    Planting Garlic

    Planting Date

    In Canada, garlic is generally planted in the fall as this ensures that the garlic experiences a dormant period through the winter and is exposed to the cold temperatures that many types of garlic require. Spring planted cloves often do not form a bulb at all and if they do, they are almost always substantially smaller than the fall planted cloves. In warm regions like California or the southern united states, garlic can be planted in late winter or very early spring, however this is only possible because of their mild temperatures and long growing season.
    The best fall planting date depends mostly on where you live. When planting garlic in the fall, your goal is to have the cloves develop as much root growth as possible before winter, without having the clove sprouting and showing green top growth. This means that the date of planting can range from mid-September to as late as the end of November depending on where you live and how long you want your cloves to settle in before winter.

    In colder zone 2/3 regions such as Manitoba where winter comes early, garlic planting can start as early as September 15 and go as late as the end of October. In warmer regions like southern Ontario, B.C or the Maritime provinces, planting can range from early October until the last week of November. If you plant your garlic early in the season and end up with some green top growth above the soil line going into winter, it is not the end of the world. The green leaves may die back and the cloves will re-grow new leaves in spring.
    On our farm, we like to start planting our garlic the last week of September and try to finish by about October 15th. In our region, this means that the early stuff has lots of time to form a large root mass, and the later plantings still have time to put down at least some roots before winter.

    Planting Technique

    Make sure the bulb tips are planted pointed up, and the flat bulb basil plate down. This helps the embryonic leaf emerge out of the ground quickly and straight up horizontally. This is more important with hardneck garlic varieties as upside down cloves often form smaller, odd shaped bulbs. Softneck cloves tend to turn themselves upright somewhat and do not form a scape which allows the bulb to form normally even when on its side slightly. Planting garlic in nice straight rows or in uniform grids is also highly recommended. Garlic tends to require a lot of weeding, and straight rows makes this much easier.

    On our farm, we plant all our garlic by hand with the tips pointed perfectly straight up. This gives us good strong emergence in spring and nicely formed bulbs in the fall. On occasion, if pressed by time or weather, we have planted some bulbs on their side or slightly crooked and have found the majority of them still formed nicely.

    Planting Depth

    Garlic cloves are generally planted anywhere from 1″ to 3″ inches deep. Some growers plant deeper than 3″ inches, however this only works well in very sandy dry soils. Generally any deeper than 3″ is excessive and will force the garlic cloves to use valuable energy when emerging from the soil and can limit the size of the harvested bulbs due to the force of the soil pushing down on the bulbs while growing.

    How deep you choose to plant your cloves will depend on a couple factors. One is the type of soil you have and how well it drains. In poorly draining soils like clay, or regions that generally receive high amounts of rain, planting deeper than 1″ or 2″ can cause the garlic to rot over winter, in spring or during wet periods. In sandy or very well drained soil, planting less than 2″ or 3″ can lead to drought stress during dry periods.

    The second factor is the climate of your growing area. The deeper a garlic clove is planted, the more winter protection it has. In warmer regions like the west coast, winter conditions are mild and depth is not really a concern. In very cold climates like the prairies, planting on the deeper side can help protect the cloves over the winter.

    On our farm, we have heavier clay soils and very cold winters. This means that perfect planting depth is very important. We plant our cloves between 1″ and 2″ depending on the field. At 2″ we find that the garlic is usually deep enough to survive the winter, however 1″ can easily have winter kill on the more exposed areas without a mulch cover.

    Plant Spacing

    There is a wide range of variability when it come to suitable plant spacing for garlic. Cloves can be planted anywhere from 4″ to 8″ in row and 6″ to 12″ between rows (and sometimes even wider). How close or how far apart you decide to plant your garlic will depend on how you plan to weed around the plants, your space limitations, the type of garlic being grown and you goals regarding size and quality.

    For growers using equipment such as tillers or tractors, the spacing of the garlic has to accommodate the equipment movement through the field or garden. Enough space must be given to ensure that tiller tines or tractor wheels don’t hit the sensitive garlic plants or roots even when they are almost full grown. What looks like a lot of space when planting the cloves in fall, often seems too close once the garlic is growing during the summer, so using a wider spacing is a good idea.

    How much space someone has is often one of the biggest determining factors on spacing. If you have limited space to grow, good soil and want as much garlic as possible, then planting your garlic with very close spacing is the best option. Some of the best garlic is grown by market gardeners or homeowners that use very intensive beds with extremely tight spacing. The key to their success is good moisture management, prudent weed control and great soil. If you have a large area or marginal soil conditions, then using a wider spacing is usually a better choice. This will reduce the competition between your garlic plants for water, light and nutrients as well as make your job of weeding much easier.

    If you are growing a variety of garlic that tends to produce large bulbs and/or you are trying to grow the absolute largest garlic possible, then giving each plant a large amount of space is the best practice. In general, individual garlic plants do not need a very large amount of space, however using a plant spacing on the wider side will definitely improve your chances of growing large, healthy garlic that looks uniform.

    On our farm, we typically plant on 40″ raised beds that have three or four rows. In the three row beds, spacing is 12″ between rows. In the four row beds, spacing is 9″ between rows. All our in row spacing is 6 inches between plants. We have found that our current spacing allows for easy weeding and tends to grow large healthy bulbs.

    Next → Garlic Growing

    Photo: Penny Woodward

    In most states you have another couple of weeks to get your garlic into the ground. Make sure the garlic you want to plant comes from an organic supplier or market gardener, as supermarket garlic is often sprayed with sprout inhibitors to prolong storage life. Unfortunately this means that cloves don’t spout at the right time and this often results in them rotting in the soil.

    Garlic likes well-drained soil with lots of organic matter but not too much nitrogen. If your soil is acidic then add some lime and make sure your garlic patch is in full sun.

    When you are ready to plant, crack the garlic bulbs into the individual cloves and plant the biggest cloves. If you are planting a softneck with lots of small internal cloves, don’t bother planting these cloves as you will probably end up with rounds instead of bulbs. A round is one single solid bulb, instead of one being made up of cloves. Rounds are still delicious to eat, or can be replanted the following year and will then produce and bulb with cloves. You may also get rounds if you plant too late in the season, which is why you need to get your garlic in now!

    Plant your cloves about 2cm deep. If you are in a really cold climate go a little deeper. If you are going to mulch you can plant just under the soil. Make sure the base plate points down and the pointy growing tip points up. Space the cloves 15–20cm apart in both directions. Cover the cloves with soil, sprinkle some blood and bone or other slow-release organic fertiliser over the top and water well. Don’t water again until the cloves have sprouted.

    I always mulch my garlic, adding about 5cm of open mulch either just after I have planted and watered, or waiting until the green shoots appear and then mulching. If it looks like a wet autumn then I wait and mulch once the cloves have sprouted. The rain can cause the mulch to matt, making it more difficult for the shoots to push through. Mulching not only helps to retain moisture in the soil, but more importantly keeps weeds under control. Garlic hates having to compete with weeds.

    Once this is done, just sit back and watch your garlic grow. Top dress again with a bit of blood and bone in late winter, and water with seaweed extract every couple of weeks from mid-winter onwards, alternating with dilute fish emulsion every other fortnight. In seven months start checking your garlic and looking to see if it’s ready to harvest and cure. This leaves you with plenty of time to contemplate eating your own spicy fragrant garlic.

    If you are fascinated by garlic, or are thinking of growing garlic for sale (you don’t need much space to grow a commercial crop), you might want to come along to the Australian Garlic Industry Association (AGIA) seminar from 4–6 August in Albury. Here you can not only learn from experts how to identify, grow and market garlic, but also chat to other growers and enthusiasts over dinner or a cuppa. To find out more go to the AGIA website and click on the link on the home page.

    By: Penny Woodward

    First published: April 2014

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