I’ve decided to use one of my raised beds to grow garlic this fall. Since this is my first time growing garlic, we’ll learn together if you’ve never grown it either. Planting garlic in one of your beds is a commitment to space because garlic planted in the fall will be harvested in the summer.
Tips on Growing Garlic.
- Choose the biggest and healthiest garlic bulbs you can find. Feel of the bulb and be sure the cloves are not soft.
- Choose the garlic type that is best grown in your area. Since I live in the South, the “soft-neck” garlic is what is recommended for my garden. Soft neck garlic has more bulbs than “hard-neck” varieties but they are smaller. They store well, and the soft stems can be braided.
- Hard-neck garlic is best suited for cooler climates. Their cloves are larger but fewer on the bulb. They do not store as long as the soft-neck.
- Each type has many varieties, so when you are deciding which garlic you want to plant, you may want to look at storage, flavor, or bulb size, according to your likes.
- I chose Early-California. It is a soft neck variety that is easy to grow, medium size, with a nice mild flavor. It also has excellent storage ability, and is probably the most commonly grown in the U.S.
- Purchase garlic that is sold for planting. I know people who have grown garlic from supermarket garlic, but some has been treated with a sprout inhibitor to keep it from growing.
- Plant garlic in full sun.
- Garlic should be planted in well drained, rich soil, a few weeks before your first frost date and the ground freezes. My first frost date ranges from the last two weeks of October to November 1st. If you do like I did and order it too early, (because I couldn’t find any in the nurseries here, and was told they did not know whether they would get any), you don’t want to store in the refrigerator, or it will start sprouting. My garlic is downstairs in my basement office which stays cool, and I run a dehumidifier. Optimum storage 60-70 degrees, low humidity.
- Pull all the cloves apart from the bulb, but leave the outer skin attached. Choose the largest bulbs, the small bulbs take up as much space, but won’t give you as big of a bulb.
- Some growing guides instruct you to soak the cloves in water 2 hours before planting, and others say it is not necessary. I’m going to do both and see if the result is different.
- Amend the soil with plenty of compost prior to planting. It will help with drainage, and is a good source of your initial fertilizer.
- Dig a hole 3-4 inches deep in soil that has been loosened to 8 inches. My raised bed is 16 inches deep. Place the clove flat side down, pointy side up. Plant 6-8 inches apart. Mulch with straw or leaves. Using a garden tool called a “dibbler” makes it easier to plant your garlic at the right level.
- Water gently and every 5 or 6 days if it does not rain, until they are established. Don’t over water or you may rot the bulbs. After that, you don’t need to water during the winter months when it is covered with mulch. If you have a dry spring you can water every 7-10 days. Garlic needs the hot, dry summer weather to mature.
- Garlic is a heavy feeder, and once it starts to grow in the spring you will want to side dress it with an organic nitrogen fertilizer such as blood meal. Work the fertilizer into the top 1 inch of soil, and continue to fertilize in early spring every 3-4 weeks. Stop fertilizing in May, or you may stunt the size of the bulb.
Garlic is one of the easiest crops you can grow, and garlic you purchase in the store cannot compare to garlic you have grown in your own garden, so I hope, if you haven’t already, give garlic growing a try.
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