How to Grow Garlic
Garlic is a very economical crop to grow because it takes up very little space. Once it is harvested it keeps for months. And then some of the harvest can be saved for planting again in the fall. One small 4 x 8 foot bed can produce enough garlic to keep you going right through the winter from a late July harvest. The trick is spacing, timing, and curing.
Latin Allium ophioscorodon & A. sativum Family: Alliaceae
Season & Zone Season: Cool season Exposure: Full sun Zone: 4
Timing Sow cloves September through November for harvest the following July. This overwintering technique is the most reliable for gardeners down to Zone 4, and works well on the coast. Garlic can also be planted during a brief window at the beginning of March in coastal gardens, but may take longer to mature and may not form as complete a bulb.
Starting Separate the cloves and set each one, pointed end up, 10-15cm (4-6″) apart and with the tip of the clove 2-5cm (1-2″) deep in rich, well drained soil. Don’t skin the clove! Use deeper planting if rains or frost may expose the cloves, and shallower planting if using mulch or planting into heavy soil. Largest cloves will make largest bulbs. Some growers recommend planting the cloves 4 to 6 inches deep, as garlic likes moisture. In good soils, this should result in fatter, larger bulbs.
Growing Rich, well-drained soil. Dig well, add compost (lots of it if your soil is heavy) and do not compact it by stepping on it. Fertilize when spring growth starts. Water as needed and keep weeded. If your soil pH is below 5.5, the addition of wood ash or dolomite lime might help. In early summer, garlic sends up a flower stalk known as a “scape.” Hardneck garlic scapes will curl around at the top, and should be removed just as the curl starts. You’ll know it when this happens. Just cut them at the top of the stem. Garlic scapes are tasty and edible, and can be sauteed or made into pesto. Removing the flower before it opens is thought to keep more of the plant’s saved energy in its bulb.
Harvest Garlic usually matures between the early to mid-summer. In 2015 and 2016, local garlic was ready to harvest in June. When the tops begin to dry, pull and air-dry like onions. Harvest when ½-¾ of the leaves have turned yellow (depending on variety). Try to avoid puncturing the bulbs when digging them out. Cure the bulbs in a single layer in a warm spot for 1 week to 10 days. Clean the bulbs by peeling off outer muddy layers. Cut off the stems and leaves of the hardneck varieties, but leave the leaves on the softneck to use for braiding or hanging. Store in a cool, dry, well-ventilated space. Do not store garlic in the refrigerator, as this will induce sprouting, changing the garlic’s texture and flavour. Use any damaged bulbs first, store the best. Set aside your best bulbs for planting in the fall.