If you have ever wanted to grow garlic, then this fall is the time to make it happen! Although many soft-neck varieties of garlic are planted in the spring in the warmer climates of the South – the best time to plant traditional hardneck garlic is in the fall.
Hardneck varieties are the most commonly planted and used form of garlic – and a fall planting allows for a beautiful and delicious crop to be harvested the following season in July. They are one of the easiest and care free crops you will ever plant, and store easily for up to a full year.
How To Grow Garlic
Garlic can be grown in a traditional row style or mass planted in raised beds. We have grown crops both in our raised rows and raised beds with great success. The real key is making sure your soil is properly prepared before planting with a few simple steps.
Garlic grows best in loose, rich and fertile soil. Before planting, work in a few shovels of compost to the growing rows or beds where you will plant your crop. If your soil tends to be on the “clay” side, mix in a few shovels of sand to help loosen dirt in the beds. Concentrate your compost and sand to only the soil where you will plant to maximize the benefits.
Soak Before Planting
Each single clove of a garlic bulb is an individual “seed” that will grow into a full bulb. We select the largest of the bulbs grown each year to use as our seed cloves for the coming year – knowing that the larger “seeds” tend to grow larger bulbs.
If you are buying garlic seed for the first time, you can purchase your bulbs from a local nursery or via seed catalogs. You can also buy traditional garlic at a farmers market or store to use as your initial seed – but be sure it is an organic variety that has not been sprayed
To prepare the cloves for planting – take your bulbs and separate each clove carefully – trying to keep as much of the papery skin in tact. The skin serves as a protectant for the garlic as it sits in the soil waiting to sprout.
To get your garlic off to the best start possible, soak it in water for 24 to 36 hours before you are ready to plant. We used to plant our crop directly in the soil without this step, but the last few years, we have noticed by soaking that they will germinate much quicker with the soaking method. Some folks will also add a teaspoon of baking soda to the soaking mix as well to help prevent rot and disease – although that is a step we have never found necessary.
When and How To Plant
Garlic is best planted in the late summer or early fall. You want to make sure you have a good 4 to 6 weeks before the first hard frost will hit to allow time for the crop to germinate and take hold. For us here in Ohio – we like to plant right around the first week of September.
Garlic can be mass planted in raised beds or raised rows – we plant 3 rows in a single 18 to 20″ wide strip of soil – leaving about 4″ between bulb planted and 4″ inches between each planted row in the bed.
Begin by digging a trench about 3 to 4 inches deep. Fill the bottom of the trench without about an inch of compost, and then plant each bulb down into the compost layer. When planting – make sure to keep the pointy end of each garlic clove up – and the flat end down. Cover the cloves with soil, and then mulch with a light 1/2″ layer of shredded leaves or straw to keep the soil moist and to help keep out weeds. Water the crop in – and be sure to keep the soil watered every 3 to 4 days until it sprouts.
Mulch, Mulch – and Mulch Some More!
The key to growing a great crop of garlic once planted can be summed up in a single word – mulch! Your garlic crop should sprout through the soil in late fall about 2 to 3 weeks after planting. Once it pokes through the dirt, add another 1 or 2″ of straw or shredded leaves to keep the weeds out and the soil protected.
As winter approaches and colder temperatures settle in, the garlic will begin to go dormant. Add an additional two to three-inches of straw to help insulate the crop – and wait for Spring!
The garlic crop will come back to life in the early spring as strong as ever. All that is needed for care is to keep the crop mulched and weeded – and wait for harvest!
The crop will be ready to harvest when the tops begin to brown off – which is usually sometime around the first week or two of July.
So get ready to plant your garlic this fall – and be rewarded with a tasty, delicious crop next summer that will last you the whole year! You can also check out our video on the entire garlic planting process here : Grow Garlic
Happy Gardening! – Jim and Mary
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