If you live in the northern regions, plant garlic 6 weeks before the ground freezes. In southern regions, it is better to plant in February or March.
Break apart cloves from bulb a few days before planting, but keep the papery husk on each individual clove. Make sure the soil is well-drained with plenty of organic matter and sunlight.
Place cloves 4 inches apart and 2 inches deep, with the pointed end facing up.
When to Water
Water every 3 to 5 days during bulbing (mid-May through June). Garlic needs even moisture especially during bulb formation. Garlic requires fairly even soil moisture during the growing season with no additional moisture during the last few weeks. Mulch is one way of maintaining an even moisture. Not enough moisture means that garlic does not develop a full sized bulb. Over watering results in garlic with poor keeping qualities - poor wrappers, burst skins and mold.
For a clove to form a bulb, most garlic types require at least 40 days with temperatures below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Without this, the plant forms the familiar green stalk with flat leaves but no bulb.
Garlic has very few problems with pests in the garden (in fact, its a natural pest repellent!), and also very few problems with the diseases that plague other veggies. White Rot is one concern, but you should also keep an eye out for the same pests that plague onions.
Garlic will grow under a wide variety of soil conditions, but prefers free draining loam with lots of organic matter. Building up your soil with green manure cover crops as part of your normal crop rotation is good practice. Compost and composted manure are popular choices.
Garlic plants can reach a height of 1 to 3 feet.Take that into consideration when planning your garden. Make sure there is enough distance between your tall vegetables and short vegetables. That way both will get enough sun light.
Harvest time depends on when you plant, but the clue is to look for yellow tops. Harvest when the tops begin to yellow and fall over, before they are completely dry. Harvest mid-late summer when 6 or 7 healthy green leaves remain. Loosen soil and lift with a garden fork. Cure in a dim area with ample airflow for 2-3 weeks.
Garlic is traditionally planted in cold weather and harvested in summer ("plant on the shortest day, harvest on the longest"). Garlic fails to form bulbs if exposed to temperatures over 77 degrees Fahrenheit before planting, and so should be carefully refrigerated before planting.
Garlic requires adequate levels of nitrogen. Fertilize accordingly, especially if you see yellowing leaves early in the season.
Plant garlic in fall, plant cloves in well-drained beds after the first frost has passed and the soil is cool. Cloves can also be planted in late winter as soon as the soil thaws, but fall-planted garlic produces bigger, better bulbs.
Planting large cloves ressults in large bulbs. Leave the outer skin on the bulbs and do not separate the cloves from the bulb until you are ready to plant. Do not plant cloves from the grocery store. They may be unsuited varieties for your area, and most are treated to make their shelf life longer, making them harder to grow. Instead, get cloves from a mail order seed company or a local nursery.
Eat some scapes. As the garlic plants begin to grow, long green stalks called scapes will emerge and form loops. Pull off a few scapes and eat them if you wish. This may damage the garlic bulbs themselves, so don't do it to every plant. Use gloves when pulling off scapes; otherwise your hands will smell of garlic for days.
Garlic will tolerate some shade but prefers full sun.
Beans, sage, peas and Kohlrabi should not be planted next to garlic.
The following vegetables will do well when planted next to garlic: Beets, Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Lettuce, Peppers, Potatoes, Spinach, Tomatoes. Planting certain vegetables next to each other can deter insects and encourage growth.
Next year, DO NOT plant onions, garlic, leeks, shallots and chives in the same location where you planted garlic this year. Because they are all members of the Amaryllidaceae family. Instead use that spot to plant other vegetables from a different family such as:
- Carrot (Umbelliferae): celery, carrots, parsley
- Legume (Leguminosae): peas, beans, lentils
- Mustard/Brassica (Cruciferae): broccoli, caulifower, kale, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, turnips, radishes.
- Sunflower (Compositae): lettuce, artichokes.
- Cucurbit (Cucurbitaceae): pumpkins, melons, squash, gourds, cucumbers.
- Nightshade (Solanaceae): tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, peppers
- Goosefoot (Chenopodiaceae): spinach, Swiss chard, beets.
Growing Garlic Overview
In General, garlic plants are not hard to grow as long as they get enough sun light and cool temperatures before they develop bulbs. For more planting information, please visit our Farming Tips homepage.