A COLD START THEN PLENTY OF SUN

How to Grow Great Garlic

PLANT IT IN THE FALL.

  • Be prepared to plant garlic in the fall, about 6 weeks prior to the hard ground freeze in your area. In our growing zone, this is usually in early-October, right after the first frost.

FERTILIZE & PREP YOUR SOIL.

  • Garlic likes lots of sun, so be sure your planting location gets at least 8 hours of full sun each day.

  • Fertilize your soil with a good, all-purpose, chemical-free or green fertilizer/compost several days before planting. This isn't mandatory, but we highly recommend it because garlic is a heavy feeder.

  • Separate the cloves from each bulb, but leave the clove wrappers intact. This is called cracking. We found a butter knife is the best tool to help crack the bulbs apart without damaging the cloves.

  • Be sure to keep varieties separate so you can organize your planting.

  • If you choose to, the day before planting, sterilize your cloves in vinegar for 10 minutes, then put them in a seaweed fertilizer soak over night. This will greatly reduce the chance of diseases, increase plant health, and boost bulb size. We highly recommend this step, especially for larger crops growing over 60 bulbs.

PLANT CLOVES TIP UP & COVER FOR WINTER.

  • One clove will grow one garlic bulb.

  • Plant garlic cloves into prepared soil about 3" deep and 6" apart with the tip of the clove up towards the sky, and the root side down.

  • It is very important that your clove is oriented "tip up" so the germ faces the sun and plants grow nice and straight!

  • Cover each clove with approximately 3” of lightly-packed soil.

  • A few weeks after planting, after the ground has frozen, put 4–6” of mulch over your whole garlic plot.

  • We have found that clean, organic straw works best, but shredded leaves and newspaper can work also IF you fluff them up after winter AND after steady watering or rain so they don't get too matted down. Whatever you experiment with and ultimately choose, avoid using hay! It is just too dense, it usually contains tenacious seeds that become weed competition for your garlic, and it holds too much moisture during the growing period, which promotes mold and rot.

WAIT, WAIT, WAIT & WEED, WEED, WEED.

  • In the spring, watch for your plants to peek out from under your mulch and weed, weed, weed as needed!

  • If you notice your mulch has been packed down too much over winter, use a pitchfork to gently fluff it up so your plants can make their way through.

  • In mid- to late-June, keep weeding, but also snap the scapes off your plants just as they form a loop or just after the bulbil end starts to bulge. This encourages larger bulb growth.

  • Get creative with scapes to help satisfy all your garlic cravings until your harvest is ready. Check out our garlic scape recipes to help pass the time until harvest!

HARVEST AT THE CORRECT TIME.

  • Harvest when you have 3–4 full green leaves remaining, or 50% of the leaves have died and turned yellow from the bottom up.

  • When the plants are ready, loosen the soil around each bulb with a pitchfork or hoe, then pull each plant straight upwards out of the ground by grasping as close to the bulb as you can.

  • Shake and rub as much soil off the bulbs as possible.

  • Remove the the bottom (outer most) leaf of each plant to expose the beautiful, silky, clean bulb wrappers underneath.

  • Prepare a space for curing your garlic.

CURE, TRIM & ENJOY!

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A DELICATE BALANCE

8 Tips for Growing Amazing Garlic

  1. Purchase seed from a trusted source – like us! Common, white, grocery store garlic can’t be used for seed. Most likely, that garlic was grown in the mild climate of either northern California or China, and is likely a softneck variety that doesn't grow as well in colder climates as hardneck garlic. It is also likely to have been chemically treated so it won’t sprout. Instead, purchase seed garlic for the best results.

    Also, try not to be too shocked at the initial price of garlic seed bulbs. Each clove in the bulb will grow another whole bulb of garlic, and will produce plenty for eating and seed for years to follow. One pound of garlic seed cloves can yield 25–40 bulbs or about 5 pounds of garlic depending on the variety. Planting with premium quality, naturally grown seed stock like ours will get your garlic crop off to a good start with fewer chances of disease.

     

  2. Select varieties that grow well in your zone. Buy your seed garlic from a supplier located in a similar growing environment. Garlic is highly adaptable to many growing conditions, but it can take a few years to adjust fully. You will get better results right away if you grow garlic that has already been conditioned to your climate and soil type. Look up your zone, soil properties and general growing conditions at plantmaps.com.
     

  3. Plant only the largest cloves, and plant more than one variety. Sort your cloves prior to planting, and reserve only the medium and larger cloves for planting. Also, plant more than one variety because some may succumb to diseases, or they may not perform as well as expected in the growing conditions of the season. By having multiple garlic varieties, you can hedge your bets for a successful harvest.
     

  4. Plant at the optimum time for your location. Plant garlic in the fall, about 6 weeks before the estimated hard ground freeze for your area, but after the first frost/light freeze. In the Northern States, the best time to plant is around the1st or 2nd week of October.

    Garlic needs a cold period of at least 40˚F for about 8 weeks. Hardneck garlic varieties in particular require this period to encourage the seed clove to divide and grow into separate cloves that form a bulb. This process is called vernalization. Planting in the fall gives the garlic clove a head start, and it begins to send out roots before going dormant when the ground freezes. Then it begins growing again as soon as the soil warms in the spring, when daylight increases to about 14 hours per day.
     

  5. Prepare your soil before planting. Success in growing garlic often comes down to proper soil properties and preparation. Garlic thrives in full sun, and in loose, sandy or loamy soil. Choose a well-drained spot that receives 6–8 hours of full sunlight per day. Also, select an area that did not have onions or other alliums growing this year; the soil needs time to recover between these types of crops because they are heavy feeders. Remove weeds and work in a generous layer of finished compost or fertilizer before planting.
     

  6. Mulch to conserve moisture and prevent weeds. Garlic has a shallow root system and will stop growing in dry soil conditions, or when the roots get too hot. About 3–4 weeks after planting, add 4–6 inches of mulch (straw (not hay), shredded leaves, newspaper, etc.) on top of the soil surface to help conserve moisture, prevent weeds, and insulate the roots. Do not add a heavy layer of mulch too soon after planting, as this can insulate the ground too much and delay the plants from going dormant naturally. We usually wait until mid-November to mulch our fields.
     

  7. Weed relentlessly and remove garlic scapes in early- to mid-June. Keeping weeds under control is integral to growing large, healthy bulbs, but so is removing the scapes. Garlic scapes are the flowers that hardneck garlic plants produce. About three weeks before the garlic bulb has finished growing, it sends up this flower from the middle of the stalk. The scape grows upwards for several inches, then will curl once or twice before continuing to grow upward. Removing the scape just as the bulbil on the end starts to bulge, allows the plant to devote its energy into growing a larger, healthier garlic bulb.

    TIP: These tender shoots are edible and are like a bonus crop. Scapes can be used in any recipe that calls for garlic. They have the texture of green beans or asparagus, and have a sweet, milder garlic flavor. See our Scape Mania page for more information about the mighty scape, or check out scape recipes in Our Stinky Kitchen.
     

  8. Time your garlic harvest well. This can be tricky, but lifting the bulbs too early will give you undeveloped, small bulbs, while harvesting too late could cause the cloves to split through their skins or develop rot or mold. The number of days to maturity varies with the climate, but garlic is finished growing when 50% of the leaves on the bottom of the stalks begin to turn yellow. Leaves grow from the bottom up, which is why the leaves at the bottom will die back first. To test your garlic's harvest-readiness, you can dig up a test bulb. Bulbs should be large, and the skins filled out tightly. Give the plants a little more time to continue filling the bulbs out, then harvest when you have only 3–4 green leaves remaining on the plant.