Planting Garlic In The Fall

Garlic can be planted in the spring for a late summer harvest or in the fall for an early summer harvest. Most people plant it in the fall in order to utilize otherwise fallow crop space over the winter, and to get ahead for next year. Garlic can be planted up until the first hard freeze, as long as you can work the soil, but will benefit if planted when days are still a bit warm. Here is what you need to know:

  • Obtain garlic “seed” (bulblettes/cloves).  If you are a first time grower or haven’t saved your own seed, you can purchase seed from many seed catalogs or search for seed on Pick-A-Pepper, or even buy some whole heads from the grocery store to plant.
  • If you are working with whole garlic heads, pull the cloves apart, leaving the papery skin intact.
  • Garlic will tolerate a bit of shade, but really does best in full sun.
  • Soil should be rich and well drained.  Mix in finished compost, worm castings, and a little sand for optimum growth.  Some people recommend soaking the bulbs for a couple of hours prior to planting in a mixture of 1 quart water/1 TBL liquid seaweed/1 TBL baking soda.  This is supposed to help thwart fungal disease and boost growth, though the garlic will grow fine without this step.
  • If you like to plant in rows, prepare a 3 inch deep furrow and place the seed 6 inches apart, pointy end up!
  • If you prefer to plant more intensively, evenly space 3 inch deep holes 6 inches apart.
  • Cover the planted garlic with enough soil to fill up the furrow or holes.
  • Water
  • Cover the bed with a 6 inch mulch layer of loose straw, or chopped oak leaves.
  • Water once more
  • Look for sprouting garlic in about 4 weeks.
  • The garlic will cease growing over the winter, but the tops will stay green.  It will resume vigorous growth in the spring when the soil begins to warm.
  • Keep weeds pulled, as garlic doesn’t compete well with weeds.
  • When spring growth resumes, water one inch, once a week.
  • Fertilize with a foliar plant food, such as homemade compost tea.
  • Tops will become yellow when garlic begins to mature.  At this point stop watering.
  • Garlic flowers are called “scapes”.  These can be harvested as they appear and have a delicious mild garlicky flavor.  Removal of the scapes also encourages larger garlic bulb growth.
  • When around 3/4 of the garlic tops have turned yellow, use a potato fork to loosen the soil, and gently lift the garlic out.
  • Remove any large soil clumps but don’t wash the garlic.
  • Bunch the garlic and hang in a dark spot (closet or garage) to dry or “cure” for 4-6 weeks.
  • Enjoy your harvest, save the biggest cloves for planting, and repeat every year!

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