Garlic Week! How to Plant Garlic
It’s easy to grow garlic, and once you do, you’ll always have a place for it in your garden. Homegrown garlic is fresh, firm, plump, juicy, and more flavourful than garlic bought from the grocery store. If you’ve never tried growing your own, follow these simple steps for planting and you’ll be well on your way to your first harvest.
When to Plant
Garlic is best planted in the fall and allowed to overwinter for harvest the following summer. It takes 8-9 months to grow garlic. But it’s definitely worth the wait! Plant garlic about one month before the first hard frost in your area. This gives the cloves a chance to develop roots, but keeps sprouts from breaking the soil surface before winter arrives.
Garlic performs best in well-draining sandy loam soils rich with organic matter. Avoid soggy soils as garlic tends to rot in overly wet conditions. It’s good to amend the soil with composted manure and till or loosen the soil well before planting. Garlic likes room to spread its roots.
Leave the garlic bulbs whole until just before planting. This protects the cloves, keeping them in prime condition. When you’re ready to plant, break apart the bulbs into individual cloves. This is called ‘cracking.’ Each clove should break cleanly away from the bulb. Cloves should be firm and plump. Discard any cloves that show signs of damage, mold or disease.
Spacing is the key to growing the largest, healthiest, most beautiful bulbs. Garlic doesn’t like to be crammed in close quarters. Plant garlic in single or double rows, spacing them 6-8” apart. Within each row set individual cloves 6-8” apart. You can plant garlic cloves with tighter spacing, but your yield will be smaller at harvest.
Place each garlic clove, pointed tip up, in a hole two inches below the soil surface and cover with soil. That’s just how easy it is!
After planting in the fall, it’s important to water and maintain even soil moisture so that roots can develop at the base of each clove. When winter arrives and the ground is frozen, garlic doesn’t require much water. It is in the spring through the early summer, when garlic sprouts push through the soil and the bulbs begin to form, that watering is needed on a regular basis: once every 3-5 days. Garlic likes soil that is not too wet, and not too dry.
In many regions across Canada where the temperatures can reach -40°C (Zone 3) or colder, there can be periods of warming and cooling, of freezing and thawing. A 2-4” inch thick layer of mulch can protect garlic against winter kill. Mulch maintains even soil moisture, consistent temperatures, and it inhibits weeds in the spring. If you choose to mulch, chopped leaves are ideal to use over the garlic bed.
It’s exciting to see garlic pushing up through the soil in the spring and know that you’ve got a jump start on a gourmet harvest. Stay tuned for our upcoming Gourmet Garlic Sampler, and check back next spring for more information about watering, weeding, garlic scapes, harvest and more!