Fall means it’s garlic planting time. If you aren’t already growing garlic, time to start! Garlic is a low-maintenance crop and it is ready to pick by July, usually a low-time in our harvest schedule, so the timing is good for processing delicious home-grown garlic!
Start by finding some nice garlic to put in the ground. Our first year growing garlic we bought it from a variety of places so we would have several types. If this is your first year planting garlic or if you didn’t hold back any cloves from this year’s harvest, try local farmers markets, coops, or natural food stores for the best seed garlic. You may be able to get away with planting garlic from a regular grocery store, but it might be imported from China or grown in a different climate than yours, so I don’t recommend this. You don’t want to waste valuable garden space (and your time) on a failed garlic crop.
When you decide how much to plant keep in mind that garlic has a wide range of sizes, but also that the size of the heads you harvest may vary from year to year given growing conditions.
Our garlic harvest numbered 110 heads this year so we held back 17 heads to plant. It was enough – we put in 127 cloves last weekend. Plant garlic 3-4″ deep and 6″ apart in rows that are 10-12″ apart. The flat (root) end goes down and the pointy end goes up. After it’s planted, mulch it with 4-5″ of chopped up leaves.
You don’t need to water garlic in the winter. Come spring, if it’s a dry year, water once or twice a week until early June. Garlic prefers dry conditions just before harvest, so that the heads harden up. That said, this year we had rain nearly every day in June, some of it torrential, but our garlic harvest was superb just the same. So you never know what’s under the surface until harvest time I guess!
In June you’ll notice scapes coming up – they are distinguished from the rest of the garlic plant because they are curly instead of straight, and they have a bulge at the top. You can cut and eat scapes in salads, if you like. But even if you just compost them, it’s better to remove them so the garlic puts its energy into growing the bulb, not the scape.
Garlic harvest comes in early July, and that’s a post for next summer! Happy growing!