It’s garlic planting time – now until early November, before a local freeze. One bulb of garlic with 8 to 10 cloves will give you 8 to 10 bulbs next year. A fine return for your patience as garlic has a long growing season.
Garlic takes 8 to 9 months to harvest so fall plantings won’t be ready until May or June next year. Fall is the best time to plant as it allows the roots to develop. You will be planting garlic cloves, the individual pieces from the garlic bulb.
There are two types of garlic – softneck and hardneck – the neck referring to the stem. Softneck types have a long shelf life, mild flavor, and their leafy stem makes them easy to braid. They are the ones most often stocked by grocery stores. Hardneck are recommended by Penn State for southern areas in the stat
Seven steps to a successful garlic garden
- Buy your bulbs from your local nursery, garden center, or mail order from catalogues. Remember when you buy that there are from 8 to 12 cloves per bulb but you will want to plant only the biggest.
- Start in a small area with well-drained soil and a minimum of 6 hours of sun. It is important to prepare for future replanting as it needs at least two years or more to allow the soil to recover. Horticulturist Jessica Walliser shows how it might be grown in pots.
- You will need to break the bulbs to get the cloves to plant. Don’t do this more than a day before planting as the root end will dry out making it have to get established. Sort the cloves keeping the biggest to plant.
- Plant upright with the root nodule down about 2-4” into the soil, spacing them 4-6” apart. Leave 6” between rows.
- Water them well for 3-4 days then mulch with 2-4” of straw or shredded leaves. For proper bulb formation, water weekly as needed and side dress with nitrogen rich fertilizers until the flower stalks (scapes) appear. Allow the soil to dry before you harvest. For an overview of growing and using garlic including 6 recipes, click here.
- Use a garden fork to lift a few bulbs to see if they are mature.
- After harvesting, allow them to dry and harden in a shady, well-ventilated, shaded area for a few weeks. Brush away the dirt and trim the roots and tops within an inch of the bulb.
Carol Kagan is a master gardener and author who has been active in herbal organizations for over 35 years. She has designed and maintained herb gardens and provided docent services at historic properties. She is the author of Herb Sampler. The book is a great resource for beginners who love herbs but aren’t quite sure how to get started; or have been unsuccessful in establishing a herb garden.