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Planting Garlic

By October 8, 2014 December 9th, 2015 Garden Planning, Uncategorized

When to Plant

Garlic grows best when planted in the fall. It is a unique crop that must “vernalize” to produce well. Vernalization happens after prolonged exposure to cold temperatures. In the case of garlic, vernalization initiates the bulbing of the head. Garlic heads will be more than two times larger if planted in the fall than spring.

Grow the Right Kind of Garlic!


Softneck garlic is the kind you are most likely used to. It’s by far the most common garlic found in grocery stores because of easy shipping, long storage, and uniform taste. These varieties generally form several small cloves per head. They mature quicker and store longer than hardneck varieties.


Hardneck garlic is generally hardier than softneck varieties in very cold climates. They are the best option if you want to enjoy garlic scapes in early summer, since hardnecks are the only type that send up a strong central stalk in spring (this is the scape.) Hardneck varieties tend to form fewer cloves per bulb than softneck varieties, but they are usually a bit larger. This is your chance to grow interesting varieties not found in grocery stores!


Elephant garlic is the largest garlic and is closely related to the leek family. It is the mildest in flavor, and many claim it tastes more like an onion than garlic. Elephant garlic is twice the size of other strains, its cloves growing as large as a full bulb on standard garlic. It has a long shelf life (when stored properly) and is very easy to peel. Enjoy it raw or sautéed with butter, olive oil and salt and pepper for a wonderful treat. This is a great variety to impress kids!

5 Steps to Planting Garlic

  1. Quality organic garlic can be found at most nurseries and farmers markets, but can also be purchased at a grocery store. Make sure the garlic is organic or it may not sprout.
  2. Gently break apart your heads of seed garlic by breaking the bulb wrapper with a your thumbnail and pealing off the individual cloves, but be sure to leave the thin papery ‘skin’ on.
  3. Only use the most robust cloves in the bunch. Most of the cloves in the head will sprout, but avoid the smaller ones because they tend to produce less vigorous plants. Plant one clove of a mature bulb – don’t plant the entire bulb!
  4. Prepare your garden by loosening the soil. Plant cloves (pointy side up) 3-4” deep, and 4 to 9 per square.
  5. Add a layer of mulch on top of your soil to keep it moist and warm. Keep the soil moist – but not wet – by watering occasionally.


  1. Cloves should start to emerge in early spring. Once cloves have emerged, you can side-dress fertilize them with a balanced organic granular fertilizer if you’d like, but this isn’t necessary.
  2. They should be ready to harvest in July. The best way to tell if your garlic is ready to be harvested is if ½ to ¾ of the leaves die off and turn a yellow-brownish color.
  3. Dig up each bulb carefully. Do not pull on the stems to avoid breaking the bulb from the stem, which can cause your plant to rot. Make sure you get the garlic out of the sun immediately after harvesting. Tie the bulbs in bundles and hang them in a shaded, dry area for 4-6 weeks to let them cure.
  4. Enjoy the best tasting garlic you’ve ever had.

Final Tips

  • The garlic will sprout during the warm days in the fall. This is normal. The winter will not harm the shoots. It is also normal for the sprouts to experience a slight browning on the tips.
  • Break off the flower (the scape) when it appears on any hardneck varieties. This will increase the size of the bulb. The scape is delicious to eat and can be chopped and used like garlic.




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