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Garlic Planting Guide

October 23rd, 2013

Along with spring flowering bulbs, fall is the time to plant garlic for next summer’s harvest. If you didn’t check the blog last week, today is the last day to enter the Garlic Giveaway from Peaceful Valley Farm & Garden Supply (aka there’s still time to enter if you haven’t already, head on over to this post.

garlic growing guide
What kind of garlic should I plant?
As a general rule, northern gardeners in cold climates should grow hardneck varieties, southern gardeners in warmer climates should grow softneck varieties. That being said, experiment, try both types and different varieties of each to see what grows best in your particular area. It is reported that soft neck garlic stores longer than hardneck varieties, that might be enough of a benefit to try growing them in more northern climates. (softneck varieties to not have scapes and are also known as braiding garlic, hardneck varieties will produce scapes and have tough inner stalks that do not allow braiding, they produce scapes in early summer which can be harvested and eaten)

garlic and onion harvest

Where should I get my seed garlic?
I would recommend not using garlic purchased at the grocery store, as some or all of it may be treated to inhibit sprouting. Most likely, it will not the right variety for your climate/region. It’s also grown for it’s storage/shipping traits rather than for flavor. When possible, source your seed garlic from your area/region. The local farmers market is often the best place to find varieties that do well in your area. If you cannot find local seed garlic, locate a seller that is in your same longitude. That being said, don’t be afraid to try new and interesting cultivars to find one that works best with your climate and one that suites your personal taste.

Once you grow garlic in your garden, you can save seed garlic from your harvest as long as you haven’t had issues with disease. These will generally be best suited to your climate/garden as they acclimate to your specific conditions over a few years. Choose the best bulbs from your harvest for replanting.

garlic_harvest 3

When do I plant garlic?
As a general rule, you want to plant garlic three to five weeks before the ground freezes. In general, October is a good month in most US zones to plant garlic, unless you live in an area that expects a lot of heat during this month. Don’t plant your garlic too soon or it will sprout too much and the leaves may be damaged during the winter. If you plant too late, it won’t have enough time to develop sufficient roots to get it through the winter.

garlic_harvest 1

How far apart should I space my garlic?
There really is no hard and fast rule, numerous studies have shown that garlic planted closer together actually increases yield but it decreases clove size. I generally follow the guidelines from The Complete Book of Garlic and plant bulbs 4-5 inches apart in the rows with 10 inches between rows. My harvests have always been very good using this spacing method. However, if your soil is very lean and dry, you might want to space a little farther apart.


How do I plant garlic?
After trials in my garden, I recommend using the kelp bath before for planting garlic. Break apart the heads carefully keeping the paper sheath around each close intact. Plant only plump healthy looking bulbs (eat the ones that don’t look great). Soak cloves overnight in a mix of: 1 gallon of water + 1 heaping Tablespoon of baking soda + 1 Tablespoon of fish emulsion or liquid kelp. Results have shown this increases yield and decreases risk of disease & pests.

Prepare soil fairly deeply, garlic will sends roots down 18-24 inches. Lay out a grid and make dibble holes at the spacing you plan on using. Planting depth is determined by winter temperatures. Severe winter areas should be planted roughly 4 inches deep and mulched well. In warmer regions planting is generally 2 inches deep with mulch on top of that. Don’t worry too much about getting this exact, garlic is very forgiving. Try varying the depth a little and keep track of which depth produces best in your garden.

Garlic_in_spring 2

Should I fertilize?
The fertilization needs of garlic will depends on your soil and climate. In general, you should add compost and aged manure to your garlic bed in the fall when you prepare the soil for planting. In the spring, when the ground is still cold (generally late March/April) watering with fish or kelp emulsion every 2 weeks for a month or so will give bulbs a boost. Fertilizing too much might result in lots of leaves and smaller bulbs or bulbs that don’t store as long or large bulbs that don’t keep well. Do not fertilize close to harvest.

garlic combo Giveaway 1
Should I mulch my garlic?
Yes, I would definitely recommend adding a good layer of mulch to your garlic bed in the early winter. You probably will want to leave the mulch off of the bed until the ground is cold, adding mulch too early may prevent the freezing of the soil which will make your bulbs grow leaves prematurely. Also, do not remove the mulch too early in spring as a late spring freeze may then be detrimental to the bulbs. I find chopped fall leaves to be the perfect mulch for garlic.

Do you have any questions about planting garlic? Any great tips and tricks you’ve developed in your garden?

Want to know all more? Both of these books are phenomenal reads if you want to know all there is to know about garlic.

Reading & Watching

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.