Used for medicine, religion and cuisine, as well as many other reasons, garlic has been cultivated for thousands of years. It is closely related to onions, chives, shallots and leeks, all being members of the species Allium. If you are looking for an easy to grow plant that doesn’t take up much space in your garden, garlic is the perfect choice. We carry Killarney Red and Elephant garlic, but there are literally hundreds of varieties of garlic!
Garlic grows as a bulb, covered by a papery sheath that is whitish, pinkish or purplish in color. Each bulb is made up of cloves that you separate and plant in the ground. Each clove will then multiply into a new bulb. It is important to choose a spot in the garden that does not collect water and that has not been recently used for growing plants in the Allium family.
Similar to tulips, hyacinth and daffodils, garlic should be planted in the fall, as it does require a cold period for optimal production. Garlic grows best in well-drained soil, high in organic matter. Prior to planting, till in composted manure or compost such as our Purple Cow Compost. This loosens the soil giving the cloves an easier growing environment.
A day or two before you want to plant, separate the cloves. This gives the “wounds” created by separation time to dry over before putting them in the ground and subjecting the bulbs to potential diseases. Plant the cloves with the pointed side up, 4-6 inches apart and 1-2 inches deep. If you are planting more than one row of garlic, rows should be 12-18 inches apart. Cover the rows with 3-6” of chopped leaf mulch, grass clippings or straw to prevent fluctuating temperatures and freeze-thaw heaving. Water the rows well after planting.
In the spring, after the threat of a hard freeze is over, peel back the mulch. To optimize growth, feed the plants blood meal or Osmocote which slowly releases nutrients into the soil. Gently work this into the soil, taking care not to disturb the bulbs. You may re-apply a layer of mulch to help retain moisture and keep weeds at bay.
Harvest time depends upon the variety of garlic. Generally, most garlic is ready to harvest in late June or late July, however some isn’t ready until August. You will know when it’s approaching the time to harvest when the lower leaves on the plants turn brown and half of the upper leaves are still green. When it’s time to harvest the bulbs, stop watering two weeks prior to harvest.
Dig up the bulbs with the shoots still attached. Knock off any excess soil and lay them out to dry (cure). They should be left to cure in a warm, dry location for 3-4 weeks. It’s important that the location has good air circulation, so the papery covering surrounding the cloves dry thoroughly as well as the roots and shoots.
After the bulbs have cured, you can cut the shoots off 1-2 inches above the bulb. You should also trim the roots coming from base of the bulb or simply rub them off when they are dried. Store garlic bulbs in a cool, airy place. They should be stored loose. Keep the biggest bulbs for planting next year!