Growing Garlic

For plump, crisp garlic bursting with flavor, grow your own—it's easy.

IF YOU MUST DELAY PLANTING AFTER RECEIVING YOUR GARLIC: Store your garlic bulbs in a cool, dry place.

Spring Planting: Plant cloves in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked and threat of very hard frosts has passed. In warm southern areas, plant in late February or March. Prepare a 6′ by 2′ bed in full sun with well-drained soil. Separate the bulbs into individual cloves and plant each clove, with the tip pointing up, 2″ deep and 6″ apart. As the plants begin to grow, mound up soil around the leaves, adding several inches over the course of the season. Garlic needs evenly moist soil. Mulch the plants to conserve moisture and water weekly if there is no rain.

Garlic is ready to harvest when the lower leaves begin to brown, bend over, or dry out. Stop watering at this point. When about 60% of the leaves are dry, harvest the bulbs. Loosen the soil with a digging fork and gently pull the entire bulb out. Trim roots to 1/4—1/2″ and brush off soil. Let bulbs dry in a warm, airy place out of the sun for 2–3 weeks. Curing takes longer in wet or humid weather. For best keeping quality, store garlic in a cool, dry place with good air circulation. Spring planting of garlic can result in bulbs with excellent firmness, although the size of the bulbs may be smaller than bulbs planted in the fall.

Fall Planting: Plant cloves in the fall and then harvest full heads from each one the next year. Prepare a 6′ by 2′ bed in full sun with well-drained soil. Separate the bulbs into individual cloves and plant each clove, with the tip pointing up, 2″ deep and 6″ apart. As the plants begin to grow, mound up soil around the leaves, adding several inches over the course of the season. Garlic needs evenly moist soil. Mulch the plants to conserve moisture and water weekly in fall and spring if there is no rain. To promote strong growth, use an all-purpose balanced fertilizer in early spring. In cold-winter areas, add 4–6″ of straw or similar mulch after the ground freezes to prevent damage caused by alternate freezing and thawing of the soil.

Garlic is ready to harvest in summer, when the lower leaves begin to brown, bend over, or dry out. Stop watering at this point. When about 60% of the leaves are dry, harvest the bulbs. Loosen the soil with a digging fork and gently pull the entire bulb out. Trim roots to 1/4–1/2″ and brush off soil. Let bulbs dry in a warm, airy place out of the sun for 2–3 weeks. Curing takes longer in wet or humid weather. For best keeping quality, store garlic in a cool, dry place with good air circulation.

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