How to Plant Garlic and When to Harvest It

How to plant garlic, when to plant garlic, and when to harvest garlic is important to have for a summer harvest. However, it all begins with choosing the right seed garlic. Will it be a hardneck garlic, softneck garlic, or both varieties that will be planted?

how to plant garlic

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Garlic lovers, how to plant garlic is extremely easy. And in truth, garlic can be planted anywhere. Whether you live on a farm, homestead, townhouse, or apartment…plant it, and plant lots of it.

The Delicious Garlic

Plant all the garlic. All of it. Dedicate a section of the garden, build a raised bed, companion plant it with vegetables, plant it in containers, do whatever it takes to plant.all.the.garlic.

Why? Because foods, medicinal items, ferments, and various methods used to preserve garlic can be achieved. And also because it is flippin’ amazing and tastes great. That’s all.

De-li-cious, and beyond good, recipes containing fresh garlic for you to try.

How to Choose the Best Variety

Choosing which type of garlic variety to plant is tough, especially when you want to plant every variety under the Sun. A few things to keep in mind when selecting which variety to plant:

Taste – Each variety of garlic is special in its own right. Some will be spicier in flavor while others have a milder taste.

Storage – Individuals planting garlic in order to consume it throughout the year will need to plant varieties which store well. Many garlic varieties, under the right circumstances, can be stored long-term for up to 12 months. The Artichoke and Silverskin are a few examples of this.

Storing garlic requires proper airflow. Mesh bags, much like these, or wire baskets are ideal for storing garlic long-term. However, braiding garlic is not only ideal but easy to do. This method works well with softneck garlic.

Garlic Scapes – In order to get your ‘bang for your buck’ consider planting garlic varieties which also produce scapes. Scapes are flowers which form on hardneck varieties and are edible. They have mild garlicky flavor and can be consumed fermented, grilled, made into garlic scape pesto, or added as an ingredient for cooking.

Selecting between Hardneck, Softneck, and Seed Garlic

Hardneck Garlic – Hardneck garlic varieties grow best in colder climates. Depending on who you ask, like me, hardneck garlic is much more flavorful than softneck garlic. This variety of garlic also produces the much desired garlic scape flower, which is edible and quite delicious. In regards to storage, hardneck garlic is not considered to be the best option for storing long-term.

Softneck Garlic – Softneck garlic is ideal for growing in all regions. When planting this variety in colder, northern areas make sure to mulched heavily to protect the cloves. In regards to storage, this variety stores well long-term and can be braided for easier storage. Softneck garlic also contains excellent flavor, and is enjoyed by many.

Seed Garlic – Seed garlic can be purchased from seed companies, nurseries, or garden centers. Many individuals often reserve heads of garlic which came from their garden to use as seed garlic. The benefits of using seed garlic (verses garlic from the market) ensures the following:

    • It does not contain growth inhibitors
    • It is disease free
    • The variety is right for your climate
    • And finally, you can choose between the plethora of flavors.

when to plant garlic

When to Plant Garlic

Garlic is a bulb, and much like flower bulbs it is best to plant them during the Fall. However, when to plant it is up for discussion by many. What I mean is this, when to plant is up to you. Individuals have planted garlic based on the moon cycle, a few weeks prior to the first frost, and even the moment they have receive the seed garlic. The choice is yours to make, there’s no wrong answer.

However, there are benefits to planting garlic in the Fall.

Fall Planting – Planting garlic in the fall allows for a large bulb to form. Also, for the record, feel free to plant the cloves as soon as the seeds are received. Most seed companies will ship 4 to 6 weeks prior to the first frost. Make sure to protect the cloves by mulching heavily, especially for those who reside in colder climates.

Spring Planting – Plant garlic cloves after the last frost and as soon as the ground is able to be worked. Though planting garlic in late Spring is okay, it does not provide quite as large heads as ones planted in the Fall. Also, for zones which maintain long, harsh winters, consider planting softneck garlic during Spring.

How to Plant Garlic
  1. Break the bulb into single cloves, keeping the skins attached. Each clove will produce a new head of garlic.
  2. Growers who have clay soil will need to add a lot of compost prior to planting. Individuals with lighter soil will need to work organic matter, blood meal, and even bone meal into the soil prior to planting.
  3. Set cloves root side down 1 to 2 inches deep, and 1 1/2 to 2 inches apart.
  4. Adding mulch will protect the cloves during the winter months. For those who reside in colder climates, cover garlic cloves with a minimum of 6 inches of mulch.
  5. In the summer months water as you would any garden greens.

When to Harvest Garlic

Harvesting garlic will vary depending on when and which growing zone it is planted. With that said, here are tips on the best time to harvest scapes and the bulbs.

Harvesting Garlic Scapes

For those who planted hardneck garlic remember to harvest the scapes. This is necessary in order to help ensure that the plant’s energy is focused on growing the bulb, not the flower. Harvesting the scapes prior to the stalks becoming woody or uncoiling will give you a delicious tasting product.

Make sure to take a look at the garlic scape recipes mentioned above on how to prepare them. 

Additional information of curing, preserving, and storing root vegetables can be found in my book, The Farm Girl’s Guide to Preserving the Harvest

Harvesting Garlic Bulbs
  1. There are a few signs which will indicate that the garlic bulb is ready to be harvested. Much like onions, garlic is harvested once the leaves begin to die back.
  2. The plant is ready to be harvested after three or four leaves (starting from the bottom leaf up) have died back, but five or six green leaves remain on the stalk. Do not wait until all the leaves have died, this will cause the stem to separate from the bulb.
  3. It is best to not pull the garlic by the stems. Instead use a hand shovel, hand fork, or garden fork, taking care to not damage the bulb. Damaged bulbs cannot be stored and will need to be used immediately to prevent the bulb from rotting.
  4. Gently brush off the loose dirt, leaving the stalk and roots as the garlic dries. Bundle the garlic into small bunches and allow to cool in a covered, dry area. Do not cure the garlic in the sun, this will cause them to become burnt which prevents them from storing well.
  5. Fresh garlic will take roughly 3 to 4 weeks to cure. Once completely cured the garlic is ready to be stored.
  6. Softneck garlic can easily be braided and hung for storing. Or the stalks can be cut 1/2 inch above the bulb and stored in a brown paper bag, cardboard box, or mesh bag. Though it is not necessary, the bulb can be further cleaned by removing the outer layer of the bulb, taking care to not expose the cloves.
  7. Store cured garlic heads in a cool, dark location like a root cellar or cold storage space. Ideally, garlic stores best between 32 to 40 degrees.

how to plant garlic

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