Garlic is a relatively easy and inexpensive crop to grow, and considering all if its health benefits and culinary uses it should be a part of everyone’s garden! Plant garlic in the fall for use in summer salsas and other dishes. We grew our first crop of garlic this year with minimal effort and were very pleased with the results.
We started with a head of garlic that we purchased from our farmers market. I recommend getting garlic from a known source so you know what you are growing. You may not have luck with your crop if using a head of garlic from the grocery, many products are sprayed with chemicals to increase storage life by preventing sprouting. We planted a hardneck variety.
You will want to plant your garlic in full sun in loose, well-drained soil. Work in any compost or soil amendments prior to planting. Remove as many weeds as possible. Plant your garlic root side down (pointy side up), 2 inches deep and about 6-8 inches apart. Cover with soil.
We planted our garlic in mid-October here in Southeastern Ohio. This allowed enough time for the roots to develop but not enough time for the shoots to break the surface of the ground. This was about a month before we started getting really hard freezes. You will want to adjust your planting time according to your climate.
Now its the long wait! Sometime in early spring you will begin to notice the green shoots breaking the surface. At this point you should mulch your bed to supress any weed growth. Hardneck varieties will produce a long scape that will begin to curl as it grows. We did not cut our scapes (although they can be cut and used in cooking) as the plant grew. Some believe that cutting the scapes helps the plant produce bigger bulbs, others disagree.
Garlic requires fairly even watering during the growing season. Mulching helps hold in moisture. Also, be careful not to overwater as this can lead to cracked skins, mold, or rotted bulbs. Stop watering a few weeks before harvesting.
Once the scapes have curled a couple times and the outer leaves begin to brown it is time to harvest! Begin by inspecting a few bulbs by scraping back the dirt and checking the overall size of the bulb. We harvested our garlic in late June but we had a very early spring this year. July and August harvests are more common. To harvest, loosen the dirt around the bulbs and gently lift out of the ground being careful not to pierce the bulbs. Lay your garlic in a well-ventilated area to dry for a few days prior to storage. Store in a cool, dark place until ready to use. Enjoy!