How to Grow Garlic ~ Everything you need to know from choosing your garlic planting stock to harvesting, curing and even how the garlic will store best in your home.
Step 1. Choosing your garlic planting stock -Your seed stock is the most important facet of growing garlic. It all starts at the clove! Each individual clove is a garlic seed and it will grow into a bulb. Beginning with premium garlic planting seed stock will make a huge difference come harvest time. When choosing your garlic seed, plant the largest cloves of each garlic bulb, small cloves should be eaten. To separate cloves from the bulb, hold the bulb in one hand and use the other hand to break the cloves free of the bulb.
Step 2. Preparing your soil for planting garlic - Your soil is the next most important thing to growing garlic. Organic garlic loves good drainage and loamy, fertile soil. Amending the soil with organic matter such as compost, manure, leaf mulch and aged straw is highly recommended. Your soil should have a neutral ph level between 6 and 7.
Step 3. Planting Garlic - When to plant your garlic – We start planting garlic around Halloween and continue planting garlic thru November. This is a good guide line for almost all climates. Plant at the turning point of the seasons; with enough time for planting garlic before the ground is frozen. Try to allow three to four weeks for the cloves to settle into their winter beds, this will help the leaf development in the spring. Plant the organic garlic seed 5 to 6 inches apart with the tips up. Cover the top with 3/4 inch to 1 inch of amended, loose dirt and gently pat down the top layer of soil. In colder climates cover your organic garlic seed with 1 1/2 to 2 inches of lovely soil.
Step 4. Mulching and irrigating garlic- After you have your garlic planting stock in the ground, it is essential to cover it with a nice layer of mulch. There are many different types of mulch. Choose from aged straw, (careful no seeds) leaf mulch, grass clippings, organic compost, shredded paper. Mulch will protect your garlic seed in the cold winter months, prohibit weeds, keep the earth cool and moist during hot months and protect your topsoil from blowing away. Garlic likes to be kept evenly moist. Uneven watering may cause irregular shaped bulbs. This is where your good soil preparation and mulching becomes important. Water your garlic regularly during the leaf production stage. Apply some nitrogen rich foliage feed 2 to 3 times in spring.
Step 5. When to harvest garlic - Hardnecks will produce a flower or bulbil on a hard woody scape. These need to be removed so the plant puts energy into growing the bulb rather then the flower. Softnecks only produce a scape when the plant is under stress and this usually means the plant is ready for harvest. Stop watering when the plant starts to brown up, about two weeks before harvest. When the plant has three to four browned leaves it is ready for harvest. To avoid damaging the outer skins, always use a shovel to carefully remove the garlic bulb from the earth, don't just pull it out. Gently remove the dirt from the roots and outer skin, but don’t remove outer skin. It is best to harvest when the temperature is cool, either early morning or late evening. Click here to read more about how to harvest on our Garlic Calendar page.
Step 6. Curing and Storing Garlic - Bundle your garlic plants with twine and hang to cure. Choose an area with good circulation and out of direct sunlight. Curing your garlic will take 3 to 4 weeks. You will know it is ready when you cut the first stalk, if garlic juice oozes from the stalk - it's not quite ready. Once garlic is cured, cut off stalk leaving 1 1/2 to 2 inches. Trim roots to 1/4 inch and gently brush off outer layer of dirt being careful not to peel off outer skin. The garlic stores best in a cool dry place, 50 to 60 degrees is ideal. A root cellar or cool basement is a good storage place. Do not store the garlic in a refrigerator. When choosing which garlic bulbs to eat first, always eat the largest first, the smaller garlic bulbs store better.