- Get your garlic on: A primer on planting, growing and harvesting
- Garden Myths – Learn the truth about gardening
- Planting Garlic
- Really Early Planting
- Testing Garlic Planting Dates
- Garlic Growth in Spring
- Plant Size at Harvest Time
- Bulb Size and Number of Cloves
- Best time to Plant Garlic
- How Late Can You Plant Garlic?
- Garlic as a Companion Plant
- More Information About Growing Garlic
- Garlic Nematodes
- Planting Garlic in Fall September 14, 2018 01:35 17 Comments
- Fertilization Of Garlic: Tips On Feeding Garlic Plants
- Garlic Plant Fertilizer
- How to Fertilize Garlic
- Finding the Best Fertilizer for Garlic
- Our Recommendation: Down to Earth 5 Pound Blood Meal
- Garlic Fertilization Guide
- Basic Garlic Planting Instructions:
- Getting Ready to Plant Garlic:
- Banded Applications for Garlic Fertilizer:
- Soil Applications for Garlic Fertilizer:
- Is Organic the Best Fertilizer for Garlic?
- How to Grow Organic Garlic
- CHECK OUT GARLIC GROWING TIPS FOR EACH SEASON: FALL, SPRING, & SUMMER
- Growing Garlic
- An Adaptive Guide to Growing Garlic
Get your garlic on: A primer on planting, growing and harvesting
CORVALLIS, Ore. – Fall is approaching but don’t put away your hoe and gardening gloves just yet. The best time to plant garlic is from September through November.
Garlic roots develop in the fall and winter, and by early spring they can support the rapid leaf growth that is necessary to form large bulbs, said Chip Bubl, a horticulturist with Oregon State University’s Extension Service.
What type of garlic should you plant? Some gardeners like to grow top-setting garlic, also called hardneck. Common hardneck types include Korean, Dujanski, Siberian, Music, Chesnock Red, German Red and Spanish Roja. These varieties produce tiny bulblets at the end of a tall flowering stalk in addition to a fat underground bulb of cloves.
Softneck garlic, on the other hand, rarely produces floral stems and tends to grow bigger bulbs because energy isn’t diverted to top-set bulblets. Softneck varieties include Silverskin, Inchelium Red, California Early and California Late.
Some enthusiasts say hardneck garlic has a richer, more pungent flavor than non-flowering types, but not all gardeners agree, Bubl said. Both can be harvested in early spring like green onions and sautéed as a side dish. Or you can allow them to mature until mid-July when they become a bulb with cloves.
Another type, elephant garlic, is actually a type of leek that produces large, mild-tasting cloves – usually fewer per bulb than the true garlics.
Bubl offers the following tips for growing garlic:
- Lime the soil if you haven’t done so recently. Before planting cloves, work a couple tablespoons of 5-10-10 complete fertilizer, bone meal or fish meal into the soil several inches below where the base of the garlic will rest. Select healthy large clovers, free of disease. The larger the clove, the bigger the bulb you will get the following summer.
- Plant the garlic in full sun in well-drained soil. A sandy, clay loam is best. In heavier soil, plant it in raised beds that are two to three feet wide and at least 10 to 12 inches tall. Garlic has well-developed root systems that may grow more than three feet deep in well-drained soil. Plant cloves root side down, two inches deep and two to four inches apart in rows spaced 10 to 14 inches apart. Space elephant garlic cloves about six inches apart. Garlic can be lightly mulched to improve soil structure and reduce weeds. A single 10-foot row should yield about five pounds of the fragrant bulbs.
- Fertilize garlic in the early spring by side dressing or broadcasting with blood meal, pelleted chicken manure or a synthetic source of nitrogen. Just before the bulbs begin to swell in response to lengthening daylight (usually early May), fertilize lightly one more time. Weed garlic well, as it can’t stand much competition. Garlic is rarely damaged by insects. Most years, you won’t need to water unless your soil is very sandy. If May and June are very dry, irrigate to a depth of two feet every eight to 10 days. As mid-June approaches, taper off the watering.
- Remove the floral stems as they emerge in May or early June from hardneck varieties to increase bulb size. Small stems can be eaten like asparagus, but they get more fibrous and less edible as they mature. Don’t wait for the leaves to start dying to check for maturity. Sometimes garlic bulbs will be ready to harvest when the leaves are still green. The best way to know is to pull one up and cut it open crosswise. Start checking for mature cloves about late June. Harvest garlic when the head is divided into plump cloves and the skin covering the outside of the bulbs is thick, dry and papery. If left in the ground too long, the bulbs sometimes split apart. The skin may also split, exposing the cloves and causing them not to store well.
- Dig, and then dry the mature bulbs in a shady, warm, dry and well-ventilated area for a few days. Then remove the tops and roots. Brush dirt off the bulbs. To braid garlic together, harvest it a bit earlier while leaves are green and supple.
- Avoid bruising the garlic, as it will not store well. Store bulbs in a dark, dry and well-ventilated place. Protect from high humidity and freezing. Do not store garlic in the refrigerator because cool temperatures combined with moisture stimulate sprouting. Properly stored garlic should last until the next crop is harvested the following summer.
Do you love onions and garlic? They’re easier to grow than you might think, and now is the time to plant them.
Onions and garlic are in the allium family, along with leeks and shallots. You can plant onions from now until January for harvest from May through July, depending on the variety.
Onions can be planted as seedlings from six-packs, transplants (available at local nurseries now or soon), or sets (baby onions). Sets are not recommended for California because the varieties are typically not adapted to our area, and they will bolt rather than form bulbs. Planting at the wrong time will have the same result.
Sweet onions are ideal for eating raw. American onions are better for cooking and will keep longer. Yellow onions typically store better than white strains of the same type, and red onions fall somewhere in the middle.
Leeks are also easily planted as seedlings. You can start onions and leeks from seed as well; consult Napa County Master Gardeners for information on the best time to start seeds, as timing depends on the variety.
Onions need a minimum number of daylight hours to start to form bulbs. Intermediate-day onions and certain strains of long-day onions do best in our area; local nurseries will carry appropriate varieties.
Onion and leek seedlings and transplants are hardy. You may not believe that these tiny plants will survive transplanting, but as long as you provide well-amended soil and adequate water, they will thrive. Keep them well watered and weeded initially, then maintain a regular watering schedule through the spring.
Onions do not need a lot of fertilizer. Feed lightly before planting and again in early spring. When the leaves become less firm, the bulb is mature, and you can taper off the water. The bulb is fully mature when the leaves fall over. (They will still be green.) The first time I saw these prostrate leaves, I thought some animal had trampled my onions.
Plant onions four inches apart; they need room to form bulbs. Alternatively, you can plant your seedlings or transplants closer together and thin them for use as green onions or spring (immature) onions. They are edible at all stages of growth.
Plant garlic now through February. Garlic is planted in the form of cloves. Be sure to buy certified disease-free seed stock from a nursery, catalog or certified grower to avoid spreading disease in your garden. Consider trying an unfamiliar variety. At the Heirloom Festival in Santa Rosa in September, one grower had more than 100 varieties of garlic on display. Soft-neck varieties keep better than hard-neck types, but hard neck varieties.are easier to peel. Grow soft-neck varieties if you want to braid your garlic.
Plant individual unpeeled garlic cloves, pointed end up, about one inch deep and four inches apart. Keep the soil moist but not soggy. Like onions, garlic plants are light feeders. In May or June the leaves will begin to turn yellow, even with adequate watering. Taper off the watering, and when the leaves are at least 60 percent brown, the garlic will be ready to harvest.
Plant the smallest cloves from your seed garlic closer together and harvest the leaves for green garlic. These leaves have a mild garlic flavor and will be ready long before your garlic bulbs have matured.
Garlic and onions must be dried if you plan to store them. Lift them from the ground with a garden fork. Wait until onions are completely dry in the ground before lifting them, then put them in a warm, dry place away from direct sun for a week or two. Garlic will take two to three weeks to dry enough to store. After your onions and garlic are sufficiently dry, bush off the dirt, trim the roots to one inch, and either braid the tops or cut off the tops about two inches above the bulb.
Napa County Master Gardeners (cenapa.ucdavis.edu) answer gardening questions Monday, Wednesday and Friday, 9 a.m. to noon, at the UC Cooperative Extension office, 1710 Soscol Ave., Suite 4, Napa, 253-4221.
Garden Myths – Learn the truth about gardening
The recommended time for planting garlic in colder climates is mid-fall – October in zone 5. That certainly works but is that the best time?
Spring bulbs, like tulips, are also planted in fall but common advice for these is to plant them as soon as you get them. Earlier is certainly better than later. Planting earlier allows the bulb more time to develop a good root system before winter sets in. Since garlic is a bulb, would the same logic not apply to it? Would it not be better to plant garlic sooner?
Planting garlic – When Is The Right Time? From left to right, Aug 2, Sept 1, Oct 1, by Robert Pavlis
Garlic is grown by planting a clove of garlic, which is a bulb. After planting, the clove makes roots while the soil is still warm, and it may also start growing some green leaves which poke out from the soil.
Garlic after being in the ground for 1 month showing significant root growth, planted Oct 1 in zone 5, by Robert Pavlis
Spring bulbs do exactly the same thing. As temperatures drop in late summer or early fall, they start to make roots. This is then followed by leaves. The leaves will grow until they are just below the surface of the soil and then they stop growing until spring. The first time I heard this I didn’t believe it, so I went out in fall and started digging around and sure enough almost every one of the bulbs had leaves just below the surface.
In hindsight, this makes perfect sense. By growing leaves in fall the plant gets a head start on spring and can flower earlier.
Since garlic has the same growth habit it only makes sense that planting garlic earlier should work. In fact it might even make larger plants since they get an earlier start. An earlier start should produce larger bulbs at harvest time? All this logic seems to make sense, but I found no information to support it.
Most home gardeners, and most commercial growers plant late fall once temperatures are already quite low.
This is the perfect scenario for a little experiment.
Really Early Planting
What happens if you plant real early? As I was planting my garlic, I found some smaller bulbs that had been in the ground for at least a full year and maybe two. They are the result of letting one plant go to seed, which produces baby garlic bulbs. These fell to the ground and I just ignored them – until now.
I dug them at the end of September. You can see that they are already producing both green shoots and lots of roots. It certainly seems as if early planting would be a benefit to garlic.
Testing Garlic Planting Dates
I have grown garlic in the same bed for a number of years and they always produce a great crop with very large cloves. I am in zone 5 and grow hardneck garlic. I know from past experience that the whole bed produces about the same size garlic.
In fall of 2016, I made three different plantings on Aug 2, Sept 1 and Oct 1.
Planting depth and spacing (4-5″) were the same for all bulbs. The bed was mulched with 3″ of wood chips after planting. Urea fertilizer was added the following spring. The beds were watered as needed to keep the soil moist. I find that the combination of clay soil, rain and mulch are enough to keep the soil moist most of the time.
To keep my observations as objective as possible, the markers with planting dates were buried so that I did not know when specific plants were planted.
Garlic Growth in Spring
The August 2 planting was the first to show new growth in spring but within a week green tips were found for all planting dates. There seemed to be very little difference between the dates.
When the plants were about a foot tall, all of the plants seemed to be the same height. Looking at the plants you could not tell which were planted early.
Plant Size at Harvest Time
Plants were harvested the last week of July. At that time all plants were the same height.
Planting time for garlic did not affect plant height, by Robert Pavlis
Bulb Size and Number of Cloves
You can see from the top picture that the size of the cloves were the same for each planting date.
The clove count is important to me. Large cloves mean less peeling, which makes them easier to use. The number of cloves per bulb were: 4.25 (Aug 2), 4.4 (Sept 1) and 4 (Oct 1). No significant difference.
Best time to Plant Garlic
In this test, planting any time from August 1 to October 1 produced the same results. Contrary to popular belief planting later did not produce a bigger crop.
Why do people advise late planting? It could be the repetition of historical advice which has no basis. It is possible that farmers are just too busy earlier in fall and that October is more convenient for them. Gardeners then follow this advice.
Some have suggested that planting earlier may give pests and diseases more time to attack the garlic, but where is the evidence that this is true?
Keep in mind that this test looked at one unnamed variety of hardneck garlic. Other varieties of hardneck or softneck garlic may behave differently. I also tested only one type of soil – mine – about 40% clay. Different soils may give different results.
How Late Can You Plant Garlic?
That is a good question and I tried different late plants the following year. The results are reported in Planting Garlic – How Late is Too Late?
If you grow garlic, try different planting times and post your results in the comments below. Include information about the type of garlic and your planting zone.
Garlic as a Companion Plant
Garlic is one of the most popular companion plants. It can be grown next to most plants as a natural pest and fungus deterrent. It takes up little space, is not fussy about soil and can grow in most conditions.
But does it actually work as a companion plant? Garlic – the King of Companion Planting
More Information About Growing Garlic
Article on Growing garlic
Which is better, hardneck or softneck?
Video on growing garlic:
If the above video does not play, try: https://youtu.be/NuCqoGZEcks
If you grow garlic you should learn about the garlic nematode – it can devastate your crop.
If the above video does not play, try: https://youtu.be/hJdJV95WEMU
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Old gardening wisdom says that you should plant garlic on the shortest day and harvest it on the longest. It’s not a bad way of remembering the rough pattern of growth – but, in fact, planting garlic a little earlier will give it a head start before the really cold weather arrives.
In theory, garlic can also be planted in spring, but the yields will be about half that of autumn-sown garlic. November may feel like an odd time to start a crop so associated with heat and the Mediterranean, but planting now allows it to put down roots and send up its sturdy, winter-defying shoots early, ready to make the most of next year’s season.
Garlic grows well in Britain on all but the heaviest soils. Unfortunately I garden on one such soil, but have found that forming my claggy clay into a ridge and mixing in plenty of horticultural grit creates drainage good enough for it to succeed.
Don’t use garlic bought at the supermarket – it may carry viruses and is unlikely to be the best strain for our climate (check where it was grown if you want confirmation of this). The ‘Wight’ strains have been bred for UK conditions and are available from thegarlicfarm.co.uk. The Garlic Lovers Collection from suttons.co.uk has a long-storing softneck variety and two of the gourmet hardnecks; the latter are more closely related to wild garlic and have a more complex flavour.
They are a little trickier but well worth trying. Break bulbs apart just before planting and push cloves into the ground pointy end up. Mulching with straw or rough compost can really help to buffer the plants against winter weather, and improve yields when summer harvest time comes around.
Planting Garlic in Fall
September 14, 2018 01:35
In late summer or early fall, most gardens are full of delicious vegetables ready for the table and winter storage. This time of year can be one of the most rewarding times for gardeners as the fruits of their labour are fully paying off. As a result, one of the last things on their mind is preparing the garden for planting garlic in the fall.
Most vegetable growers or gardeners do their garden planning during the winter or very early spring. This means that they often overlook the fact that garlic should ideally be planted in fall. In climates like Canada and the northern United States, fall planting of garlic produces strong flavoured, hardy garlic bulbs that can grow to impressive sizes. With a bit of special attention, garlic can be planted and overwintered in almost any region, including the North.
Three most important steps to planting garlic in the Fall:
The best time to plant garlic in the fall will depend on your location and climate. The goal is to have the cloves develop as much root growth as possible before winter, without having the garlic emerge from the ground and ending up with green top growth. This means that the date of planting can range from mid-September to as late as the end of November depending on where you live and how long you want your cloves to grow roots before winter.
Generally speaking, it is recommended that garlic in Canada be planted around October 15th every year. This conventional wisdom, however, is a very broad recommendation and is not always ideal for every location.
In colder zone 2 & 3 regions such as Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Northern Ontario and parts of BC where winter comes early, garlic planting can start as soon as September 15th and go as late as the end of October (or until the ground freezes).
In warmer regions like southern Ontario, Quebec, coastal B.C, the Maritime provinces, and much of the Northern United States, planting can range from early October until the last week of November. If garlic is planted early in the season and some green top growth occurs above the soil line going into winter, it is not the end of the world. The green leaves may die back over winter, but the cloves will re-grow new leaves in spring.
Generally, garlic planting depth ranges anywhere from 1″ to 3″ inches deep. How deep you should plant your garlic cloves will depend on a couple of factors.
The first thing to consider is the type of soil you have. On poorly drained soils like clay, or regions that generally receive very high amounts of rain, planting deeper than 1″ or 2″ can cause the garlic to decay over winter, in early spring or during wet periods. In sandy or very well-drained soil, planting less than 2″ or 3″ can lead to drought stress during hot or dry periods.
On occasion, some growers plant deeper than 3″, however, this only works in very dry sandy soils. Generally, any deeper than 3″ is considered excessive and will force the garlic plants to use valuable energy when emerging from the soil which can limit the size of the harvested bulbs come fall.
The second factor to consider is the climate of the area. The deeper a garlic clove is planted, the more winter protection it has. In warmer regions like the west coast where winter conditions are mild or in areas with very high snowfall, planting depth is less of a concern. In very cold climates like the prairies or locations that have a lot of freezing/thawing cycles, planting on the deeper side can help protect the cloves over the winter. At at a depth of 2″ garlic is usually deep enough to survive the winter. However, 1″ can easily have winter kill on the more exposed areas without a thick mulch cover.
In the colder regions of Canada and some northern states, covering the garlic with a mulch such as straw, hay or leaves is highly recommended to protect the bulbs over winter. In milder regions like southern Ontario, mulching is not essential, however, can still help protect the garlic from freeze/thaw cycles, as well as keep the soil warmer to allow the roots to continue growing into early winter.
Mulching should be delayed until late fall (usually November) when the weather has turned colder. This delay will help prevent the bulbs from rotting under warm and wet soil conditions. In very wet regions where the winters are mild, mulching is not generally recommended (especially on clay soils).
In spring, remove the mulch covering as soon as possible. The ground will usually still be frozen, and the removal will help warm up the soil quickly. Mulch can either be thrown into the compost pile or put back over the garlic as a summer mulch once the temperatures increase.
If you have experience or some thoughts about planting garlic, Leave a Comment Below! We’d love to hear what you think!
Fertilization Of Garlic: Tips On Feeding Garlic Plants
Garlic is a long season crop, 180-210 days to maturation, depending upon the variety. So as you may imagine, the proper fertilization of garlic is of paramount importance. The question is not only how to fertilize garlic, but when is the best time for feeding garlic plants?
Garlic Plant Fertilizer
Garlic is a heavy feeder, basically because it takes so long to come to fruition. Because of this, it’s best to think about feeding garlic plants right from the start. In most climates, garlic bulbs should be planted in late fall or early winter — six weeks before the soil freezes. In milder areas, you may plant garlic in January or even February for late summer or early fall.
Prior to either of these planting times, you should amend the soil with plenty of compost, which will become the basis for fertilizing your garlic as well as aid in water retention
and drainage. You can also use manure or 1-2 pounds of all purpose fertilizer (10-10-10), or 2 pounds of blood meal per 100 square feet of garden space.
Once the garlic has been sown, it is time to consider a schedule for further fertilization of garlic.
How to Fertilize Garlic
Fertilization of garlic plants should occur in the spring, if you planted in the fall. Fertilizing your garlic can occur either by side dressing or broadcasting fertilizer over the entire bed. The best garlic plant fertilizer will be high in nitrogen, those containing blood meal or a synthetic source of nitrogen. To side dress, work the fertilizer in an inch down or so and about 3-4 inches from the plant. Fertilize every three to four weeks.
Fertilize your garlic again just before the bulbs swell, around mid-May. By all accounts, however, do not fertilize with high nitrogen foods after May, as this may stunt the bulb size.
Keep the area around your garlic weed free since it doesn’t compete well with weeds. Water the garlic deeply every eight to 10 days if spring is dry but taper off in June. Start checking for mature cloves at the end of June. It’s best to dig one out and cut it in half to check for maturity since the green tops of garlic don’t die back like other Alliums when they are ready. You’re looking for plump cloves covered with a thick, dry papery skin.
Cure bulbs in a shaded, warm, dry and airy place for a week. Garlic can be stored for months in a cool, dry, dark area. Cold temperatures promote sprouting, so do not store in the refrigerator.
Finding the Best Fertilizer for Garlic
It’s important that you take these numbers into account. If you over-fertilizing your soil with one nutrient – particularly phosphorous – you run the risk of doing more harm than good to your crop.
Other Important Steps
Fertilizer is a key component to a successful garlic-growing season. However, it’s not a magical substance that will guarantee mind-blowing results. There are other steps you must take to bring about ideal garlic health.
As is the case with a lot of planted foods, spacing is very important. Ideally, you’ll want to make sure the cloves you plant are spaced about 4- to 6-inches apart. If you’re working with rows, you’ll want to make sure they’re spaced one foot apart.
It’s also important that you plant the cloves with their pointed end facing upward, since that’s where the plant will grow from. Depending on the time you plant the cloves, you may want to consider covering the planted area with mulch.
You may also want to consider doing a soil test on your designated planting area to see precisely what nutrients may be lacking in your dirt. Once you get a read on this information, you can then hone in on the precise type of fertilizer that can bring your soil to optimal nutrient balance.
Our Recommendation: Down to Earth 5 Pound Blood Meal
There is a touch of scientific acumen to growing great garlic in your garden. While this may be a thrilling part of building your green thumb, it could be a pain to others. For those that find themselves in the latter category, simplicity is of paramount importance.
We like the Down to Earth 5 Pound Blood Meal because it does a good job of keeping things simple. Its numerical formula reads 12-0-0; this translates to the fertilizer being 12% nitrogen. Considering that garlic needs a good level of nitrogen to thrive, this singular focus on the nutrient may make it easier for the novice gardener to work with.
The product also serves as a primer to how important blood meal can be in a proper fertilizer, should you decide to try your hand at making your own fertilizer down the road. While it admittedly doesn’t have the most appealing name in the world, it excels at breaking down tough, unforgiving soil, infusing it with nutrients along the way.
Fertilizer simplification also seems to go hand in hand with growing garlic in general. Even though it takes a long time for the payoff to manifest, the fact remains that garlic is a pretty easy crop to grow, even for beginners. This is even made more clear if you use a no-nonsense fertilizer.
If you keep things simple and allow the garlic to simply run its course from a growth standpoint, you’ll be rewarded with one of the most versatile items that a garden can produce. Just be sure to keep a few cloves aside to re-start the growing process the following year.
Garlic Fertilization Guide
Basic Garlic Planting Instructions:
Garlic can be planted in spring or fall. For most areas a fall planting works best. Plant 6-8 weeks before your first hard freeze. Tear apart the cloves from the bulb, but leave the paper husk on each clove, and let them sit in a cool dark place for 24-48 hours. This will give you time to follow our guide below for garlic fertilizer application. Garlic does best when the soil has been properly amended prior to planting. Now place your cloves four inches apart, and plant two inches deep in rows. Be sure to plant the root face down and the pointy end facing up.
Getting Ready to Plant Garlic:
Garlic responds best to a banded pre-plant application of AGGRAND garlic fertilizer, with regular subsequent applications at the two critical stages of growth: emergence and just prior to bulbing. Once bulbing has begun additional fertilizer has no significant effect. Natural Liquid Lime can be amended to the final application when conditions call for extra calcium. Our recommended garlic fertilizer is an excellent choice.
Banded Applications for Garlic Fertilizer:
Per-acre mix ratio:
2 gallons Natural Fertilizer, 1 gallons Natural Liquid Bonemeal, 1 gallon Natural Kelp and 25 gallons of water. For ideal garlic fertilizer application, apply in a band near the row prior to planting in the fall.
Soil Applications for Garlic Fertilizer:
2 gallons Natural Fertilizer and 50 gallons of water. Apply at emergence.
2 gallons Natural Fertilizer, 1 gallon Natural Kelp, 1 gallon Natural Liquid Lime and 100 gallons of water. Apply just prior to bulbing.
Rates vary according to soil fertility and other inputs used. Higher dilution rates are more effective than lower dilution rates. Two or three lighter applications may be more effective than one heavy application.
To reduce susceptibility to attack of insects and disease-causing organisms, apply a per-acre mixture of 1 gallon Natural Fertilizer or 1 quart Natural Kelp and 20 gallons of water when signs of infestation become apparent. There you have it! We took the guesswork out of garlic fertilizer with careful analysis of application rates. That leaves us with one question:
Is Organic the Best Fertilizer for Garlic?
We tend to think so! We’re striving to make organics affordable for every farmer and gardener. It might not be time yet, but we hope that one season soon you will consider making the switch over to organics. When you are ready, we’re here with research and data to inform your decision.
If you like what you read, feel free to share! Please be kind and link back to us if you republish this article.
How to Grow Organic Garlic
Gourmet garlic is easy to grow! Here is a guide on planting, growing, harvesting, curing and storing garlic throughout the year.
CHECK OUT GARLIC GROWING TIPS FOR EACH SEASON: FALL, SPRING, & SUMMER
Plant garlic in fall:
For best results plant your garlic in the fall (September through December). We plant our cloves in October and November in Washington state. You should try to plant before the ground freezes solid in the winter. See our garlic planting chart for the best time for your area.
Picture: Savory Bogatyr garlic bulbs held in the hand but destined for a stir fry.
Choose a sunny garden spot:
Garlic likes full or partial sun. Most garlic growers recommend full sun; however, our garlic gets partial sun and does great. In really hot climates garlic may do better with afternoon shade to help shield garlic from the full heat of the day. We get full morning sun in our field which starts to shade around mid-afternoon (2 p.m. or later depending on the time of year). Interestingly, the garlic does better on the side of field with less sun but better soil!
Prepare soil before planting garlic:
For the largest bulbs, prep your garlic bed well. Garlic loves a rich fertile loam soil or a silty loam soil. Our garlic grows in a beautiful silty loam soil. WARNING: Do not plant garlic in poorly draining soil; garlic cloves can rot if they sit in water or mud part of the winter.
Add organic matter: What if you don’t have the perfect soil? If you have sandy or clay soil add compost, humus, manure, or other organic matter to your soil and till or dig it in thoroughly. You can use all sorts of organic matter, even hay or dried grass clippings (make sure they are not treated with herbicides). One good option is to dig in weeds as green manure as long as the weeds don’t have seeds (you don’t want to accidently plant a weed bed).
Use green cover crop: You can also use a green cover crop (also called green manure) which is tilled into the soil in the fall. There are many options for cover crops such as peas, oats, buckwheat, sorghum, clover and more. The key is to select one that is right for your climate and for when it needs to grow. There are options for spring, summer, and fall planting. If you decide to use a cover crop you must kill the cover crop before it sets seed; otherwise you will have a weed problem. You can mow, cut or till down cover crops to prevent seed formation.
Add nitrogen if needed: If you use hay, straw, wood chips or similar materials you may need to add a little extra nitrogen to the soil. Organic substances can temporarily tie up nitrogen as they decompose which may leave less nitrogen for the garlic. After the organic matter decomposes it releases the nitrogen back into the soil (so you get it back later). Once organic matter breaks down it is known as humus. Humus helps soil maintain structure, improves nutrient uptake and retention, feeds nitrogen fixing bacteria, increases soil aeration, improves water holding capacity and helps prevent erosion.
How organic matter works: The organic matter will improve every soil type. Organic matter breaks up clay soils and allow better water penetration. It increases soil aggregate stability which holds soil particles together and helps soils retain their structure. Organic matter will help sandy soils retain moisture by increasing humus concentration and retain nutrients by improving cation exchange capacity. It also increases mineralization which is how much nitrogen, potassium, sulfur, phosphorus and other nutrients are released by soil bacteria. Organic matter makes compacted soils ‘fluffier’ and adds nutrients to poor soils.
In addition, garlic is a heavy feeder which means it likes lots of nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Adding organic matter for your crop to enjoy will give you the biggest and best tasting garlic. It will also supply most of the nutrients you need to grow great garlic.
Fluff soil: Don’t forget to fluff your soil! Garlic is a root crop so soil should be soft and fluffy on the top 12-18 inches. You should be able to easily push your hand into the soil. It is extremely important to have well draining soil. Garlic cloves can rot in the ground if planted in a poor draining area.
One study found that no till garlic had 32-44% bulb loss (Bratsch et al. 2005). Conventionally planted garlic has a very high success rate. We expect to get much less than a 5% bulb loss in our market varieties (we call them our production varieties).
Consider getting a soil test in your garlic plot:
After you amend and prepare your soil take the time to get a soil test. Soil tests will measure what nutrients are already in your soil when you plant. That way you can add fertilizer in the spring if you need to do so to grow healthy bulbs.
Prepare garlic bulbs for planting:
Carefully separate each garlic bulb into individual cloves. Each clove will grow a new bulb of garlic. Be careful not to bruise the garlic with rough handling. Cuts and bruises could provide entry points for rot during the winter.
Plant garlic cloves:
Plant the garlic clove 4-6 inches deep. In areas with colder winters you should plant the garlic at least 5-6 inches deep and 4-8 inches apart. We space garlic 6 inches apart in rows, with rows 8 inches apart. You can make individual holes using a blunt handle (such as the end of a rake or shovel) or a bulb planter. You can also dig a trench 4-6 inches deep; lay in the garlic cloves and cover.
VERY IMPORTANT Garlic planting tip: make sure to plant the garlic right side up. The pointed end is the top side. This should be planted up. Garlic planted the wrong way will not grow as big or nice of a bulb. This is why all our garlic at Grey Duck Garlic is hand planted. For more pictures of which is the tip of the clove see our First Time Garlic Grower’s Guide.
Left: the correct way to plant a garlic clove. Tip should be facing up. Garlic is placed in a 3-6 inch planting hole. Right: the wrong way to plant garlic; don’t plant with the tip down or the resulting bulb will be twisted. Hardneck garlic is much pickier about this than softneck garlic.
Mulch the garlic bed in fall:
Mulch the garlic bed with compost, wood chips or hay. Mulching increases soil quality and nutrient availability for crops (Sinkevičienė et al. 2009). Straw mulch increased yield and marketability in no-till garlic (Bretsch et al. 2005). Note: we don’t recommend no-till with garlic. Make sure that the hay is nice and fluffy or chopped up so that it lets some air through. You don’t want your garlic bed getting too wet or your garlic could rot.
Be careful of straw or hay mulches in wet climates or wet years. Heavy mulches may contribute to stem rot. In addition, straw from grain crops like wheat may carry stem rots that can transfer to garlic. If you notice signs of stem rot (browning or sliminess around the base of the plant), rake the mulch away from the garlic stalk. We have not noticed this problem with compost based mulches.
Picture: Garlic beds mulched with composted manure. We have now switched to compost in our fields which we apply in the fall after planting. Straw worked well in dry years but we had to rake it away from the garlic in wet years.
We have tried mulching and not mulching the last several years. Mulching significantly prevents garlic cloves from heaving out of the ground during winter freeze thaw cycle (we have a lot of variable weather here). It also seems to contribute to larger garlic bulbs. Most important mulching will significantly decrease weed density in various crops (Sinkevičienė et al. 2009).
Watch out for weeds:
In late winter or early spring you will see your garlic sprouts emerging. Keep the plot well weeded; it is hard for garlic to compete with weeds. Weeds can reduce garlic yield by 1/3 to 1/2. Garlic that has to compete heavily with weeds has abnormally small bulbs with tiny cloves. One study found that garlic bulbs in weed free plots were 70% heavier than those in a weedy plot (Rahman et al. 2012).
It can also be difficult to harvest garlic hidden by weeds. If weeds happen I would advise trying to find your garlic though. you can still eat small bulbs and it may surprise you!
Picture: Patty weeds large hardneck garlic plants. We like to use nursery pots when weeding so we can feed the weeds to Jane’s cows. Note the straw hat for sun protection.
Fertilize garlic while it is growing:
We usually add nitrogen twice during the year to our garlic. We add blood meal directly after planting and side dress with blood meal either once or twice after garlic comes up in the spring. Do not add nitrogen after garlic begins to form a seedhead or scape. If it has too much nitrogen at that time it will grow leaves instead of a bulb! We do not need to add other fertilizers. Our soil is very high in other nutrients due to all the manure we add as an amendment.
You may need to add a complete fertilizer. One important nutrient is potassium which helps to grow large garlic bulbs. Add potassium to your soil if needed for growing those large garlic heads.
A word on watering:
Hardneck garlic is ideally suited for dry climates; most garlic will do fine on 12-14 inches of rain during the growing season. Grey Duck Garlic grows dryland garlic which means we don’t water our garlic. However, you may want to water in the spring or early summer if it is really dry. Don’t keep the soil constantly moist or you risk garlic rot.
Hardneck garlic forms scapes or “seedheads” in early summer. Scapes are composed of small bulblets which can grow more garlic. Scapes can be harvested to eat, left on the plant to mature or removed. Some people believe that removing the scapes makes the bulbs grow bigger. Studies show that if garlic is under any stress removing the scapes will result in bigger garlic bulbs.
Picture: hardneck garlic scapes reach for the sky.
Ideally the garlic should start drying out in early summer. The bottom leaves will start to dry out and turn brown. Garlic is ready to harvest when only the top 4-5 green leaves are left. You don’t want to leave it in the soil too long or the bulb quality will start to deteriorate. Dig or gently pull your garlic (if the soil is soft it will be easier to pull up the bulbs). Do not remove the stems yet.
Garlic varieties normally mature in the following order (list is from earliest to latest maturing): Tuban,Asiatic, Artichoke, Rocambole, Creole, Glazed Purple Stripe, Purple Stripe, Marbled Purple Stripe, Porcelain, and Silverskin. However, smaller plants will normally mature earlier than larger plants. If you grow different varieties, you may have a difference of 3-4 weeks or more between the earliest and latest varieties.
Picture: Patty harvests hardneck German Red garlic by digging bulbs. Be careful not to hit bulb with shovel (especially since it is always the large ones that get cut).
If the soil is soft garlic can be pulled by hand. Warning: when the soil is harder, digging is required or the garlic may break off in the soil. Dig far enough away from the plant to avoid cutting your garlic bulbs. We know from sad experience that it is always the biggest bulbs that get nicked by the shovel (and nobody wants to see a grown garlic grower cry)!
Curing garlic bulbs:
Hardneck garlic cannot be braided to store; the stems are hard. Cure the garlic bulbs by storing in a cool dry area with good air movement for 4-6 weeks. Some people hang garlic, we dry it on racks. Bulbs can be eaten ‘raw’ but will have a more mellow flavor and will store longer after curing (the bulbs you receive from Grey Duck Garlic are already cured). Once the stems are dry you can clip off the bulb and store in a dry airy place. We enjoy using both the raw and the cured bulbs in cooking.
Picture: a wagon full of hardneck garlic bulbs ready to be pulled to the barn after harvest.
Garlic Bulb Storage:
Storage length of garlic depends on your storage conditions. For the longest storage time, place garlic in a cool (50-65ºF) dry area such as an unheated room. Do not store garlic in plastic or air tight containers or garlic will mold, rot or try to grow. Garlic will sprout if exposed to prolonged temperatures below 45ºF.
Garlic cloves can also be chopped and frozen for later use. See garlic cooking tips.
- Bratsch T, Morse R, Shen Z, Benson B, Dept. of Horticulture, Virginia Tech. No-till Organic Culture of Garlic Utilizing Different Cover Crop Residues and Straw Mulch for Over-wintering Protection, Under Two Seasonal Levels of Organic Nitrogen. Virginia Vegetable, Small Fruit and Specialty Crops – November-December 2005. Full text.
- Rahman H, Khattak A, Sadiq M, Ullah K, Javaria S. Influence of different weed management practices on yield of garlic crop. Sarhad J. Agric. 2012;28:213-218. Full text.
- Sinkevičienė A, Jodaugienė D, Pupalienė R and Urbonienė M. The influence of organic mulches on soil properties and crop yield. Agronomy Research 2009:7:485–491. Full text.
Preparing the Ground for Planting
If you are going to be successful planting something to grow food for you for this year and have it provide seeds for next year, you must first give it a good home so it will grow well for you. This is not easy and usually involves more than a little work preparing the ground, either with shovel and garden fork or a tiller of some kind since garlic needs beds at least 6″ deep. Garlic likes the soil to be loosened up down to about six inches or more and to remain loose so that it feeds and waters well and its roots do not get needlessly torn up when harvesting – it’s best to minimize any physical damagge during harvesting as nicks, cuts, broken roots, etc. provide pathogens a place of entry to contaminate the garlic.
You may not need to make raised beds if your garden soil is sandy loam or a sandy soil enriched with lots of organic matter and it is loose enough deep enough to be well drained and for root crops to be easily pulled out without damage.
When we lived in town and had only a small 12X24′ garden I used a shovel, garden fork, rake and hoe to do all the work but when we moved to the country and had a garden almost the size of a football field, a tiller was a must. Merridee’s family had a big heavy Troy-Built that churned up the soil pretty good and could build a bed fast although it would jerk you around and rattle you pretty good when it hit a hard spot. A big tiller is an indispensible tool for a large garden and I wouldn’t part with the Troy-Built but it quickly became obvious that we needed a smaller more more maneuverable and easier to manage tiller for the smaller jobs within the garden and it had to be light enough for Merridee to carry and use. We looked at the alternatives and bought a Mantis tiller in 1994 and used it to till smaller beds and weed between beds because it was lightweight and maneuverable and saved backbreaking hours in the hot sun with a shovel, scuffle hoe or 4-tine hand cultivator.
I don’t even pretend to be any kind of expert on gardening but I have gardened by the seat of my pants for 35 years and have made a lot of mistakes but seem to have overcome most of them and have grown some pretty good garlic the last 15 years. I have developed methods which have worked well for me here in west central Texas and that’s all I can discuss from personal experience but I hear a lot from northern growers and I repeat what the more successful ones say.
We live near a creek and our garden soil is all fine silt, which in the absense of organic matter, compacts. I till and build and fertilize raised beds three months before I intend to plant garlic. I then mulch them with thick layer of hay/straw/alfalfa, grass clippings, etc. and hand water heavily, enough to mat down and thatch together the mulch cover and let it intertwine so it doesn’t blow away. Then I let it set untouched until time to plant so that the microbial life in the soil can do its thing and produce a living fertile bed with a chocolate cake-like texture. In Texas, bare ground gets baked by the sun and dehydrates the area around it but a cover crop or organic mulch holds the moisture in and maintains plant health.
When it is time to plant I rake back the mulch, plant the bed with the garlics planted 6″ apart, run and anchor the irrigation tapes (two to a bed) and rake back the mulch and add to it and then water to saturation to matt the mulch . Thereafter when it is time to water I irrigate with creek water through the drip tapes.
Building the beds is the hard part because there is a lot of hard labor involved.
Next:Planting and Growing the Garlic
Garlic is divided into two types: hardnecks and softnecks. Hardnecks grow with a hard woody stalk, prefer cooler winters, have a warm to hot spicy flavor, and store for 3 to 6 months. Softnecks have a softer stem suitable for braiding, milder flavor, and store 6 to 9 months.
Garlic survives bitterly cold winters underground or grows frost-hardy leaves where winters are mild to moderate, grows rapidly when the weather warms in spring, and bulbs in summer. In the north, plant 4 to 6 weeks before the ground freezes. This gives the plant time to make good root development but not enough time to make leaf growth. Where winters are milder, garlic is planted from September through early November.
Garlic needs fertile soil with lots of organic matter so the soil remains loose through the long growing season. Growers with heavy clay soils should add a lot of compost before planting. Those blessed with lighter soils having naturally loose texture need add only small amounts of organic matter, like green manures (cover crop) prior to planting.
Plant garlic in a location with full sun and rich, well-draining soil. Break the bulb into individual cloves. Small cloves usually grow small bulbs, so plant only the larger ones. Use the small cloves in your kitchen. Under each clove, apply 1 tbsp. of Rock Phosphate, Bone Meal or Fish Bone Meal along with Kelp Meal, or Azomite. You could also use a complete mix such as our Rose & Flower Mix or Vegan Mix. Plant cloves 1 inch deep, pointed tip up. Designate each variety planted with a wooden plant marker. Have at least 4 to 8 inches of space between plants on a raised bed. To grow the largest bulbs, try spacing your plants 6 to 12 inches apart.
Mulch with 3 to 4 layers of overlapping newsprint covered with straw or compost. The new shoots will grow right through the mulch in 4 to 8 weeks depending on the variety planted and the weather. The mulch also suppresses weeds. When active growth begins in early spring, side dress with a high nitrogen fertilizer like Blood Meal, Fish Meal or high nitrogen Bat Guano. Repeat in late March. Follow in late April and late May with a high phosphorous such as Bone Meal or Fish Bone Meal.
Garlic should not be planted with peas and beans. Good companions are lettuce, beets, strawberries, and chard. Rotate the crop and do not grow in soils where onions or other alliums were planted the previous year.
Even in the dry west, garlic needs little irrigation as it grows mainly during the wet season, although some irrigation maybe necessary in dry spells. Garlic needs about an inch of water each week during spring growth. Stop watering by June 1 or when leaves begin to yellow, and let the bulbs firm up.
The state of the garlic’s foliage is the indicator for harvest, not any particular date. Gauging the right time to harvest is very important. Dug too soon, the skins won’t have formed around each clove. Hard-neck bulbs, if dug too late, may have begun to spread apart in the soil and will not store well. Each year the timing is a little different so rather than watch the calendar, observe the plants. Hard-neck varieties put up a tall, woody flowering stalk that usually grows bulbils at the top. If the plant is allowed to put its energy into these seeds, the bulb forming below the ground will end up smaller, so cut seed stalks off as soon as the flower head has reached 8 to 9 inches tall. The top of the plant, called garlic scapes, make delicious additions to stir fry, or spicy good pesto!
Garlic is fairly easy to grow and bothered by few pests. Occasionally a grazing deer will nip the growing tips in the spring. Disease-wise the biggest problem is root rot in poorly drained soils, or from over watering.
Harvest & Curing
As the bulbs mature the leaves brown off. When there is still about 50% of green leaves remaining on the plant, it is a good time to harvest. (Incidentally, immature bulbs that haven’t fully developed skins around their cloves can be chopped up like onions and make delicious additions to cooking.) In very good garlic ground (very fluffy soil) the plants might be pulled by hand, but it is usually better to loosen the soil first with a spading fork. Immediately brush off the soil from around the roots, but do this gently.
Drying is the essential part of curing the bulbs, so do not wash them in water. Immediately move the newly dug garlic out of direct sunlight. When curing, some growers tie the garlic plants by their leaves or stalks in loose bundles of 8 to 12 plants and hang them under cover. Others spread the plants in single layers on screens, drying racks, or slatted shelves. You can attach your wooden plant marker or a label to bunches or drying racks to keep track of your different varieties.
Garlic stores longer if it is cured with its stalk or leaves attached. Good air circulation is absolutely essential. The plants should cure from 3 weeks to 2 months, depending on the humidity and amount of air circulation. Some growers use a fan in the curing shed.
After curing, you may trim the roots. If the garlic is to be kept in sacks, cut the stalks off 1/2-inch above the bulb and gently clean the bulbs with a soft bristle brush, taking care not to strip off the papery skin.
An Adaptive Guide to Growing Garlic
‘All Things Garlic’ – Organic Guide to Growing Garlic
At Adaptive Seeds garlic is one of our favorite crops. It is garlic seed buying season, so we thought we would share this organic guide to growing garlic. We cover some basic (and not so basic) info about how to grow garlic organically and care for this kitchen staple.
First, it is good to know what different kinds of garlic are available. We offer two of the three main types of garlic at Adaptive Seeds.
So named because it produces a woody stem, this type of garlic is known for having fewer (4 – 12) easier-to-peel cloves than softneck garlic. It generally has a more pungent flavor, which many garlic lovers prefer. Hardneck garlic tends to have fewer of the papery sheathes both around the clove and around the bulb. This wrapping protects the garlic from light and changes in humidity, so hardneck garlic does not store as long as softneck. Generally speaking, hardnecks store well for about 3 – 4 months. We offer two types of hardneck garlic – Porcelain & Glazed Purple Stripe.
Varieties include: Donostia Red, Shvelisi / Chesnook Red, Khabar, Music, Purple Glazer, Romanian Red, Rosewood, Purple Italian Easy Peel, Zemo.
In contrast to hardneck garlic, this type of garlic has a pliable stem (neck). Softneck garlic stores better and can be more productive. We offer several varieties of Silverskin type softneck, which is the most common garlic for commercial growers and what you most likely find in the grocery store. Silverskins have excellent storage and pure white bulb wrappers. Silverskin garlic can have up to 40 well-wrapped cloves per bulb. We also have Artichoke types of softneck garlic. Artichokes have only about 12 – 20 cloves each, and both the cloves and bulbs tend to be significantly larger than Silverskin varieties. Artichoke garlics tend to mature up to 4 weeks earlier than Silverskin types. Both are great storage types and generally speaking can store up to 9 months.
Varieties include: St. Helens, Polish White, Broadleaf Czech, Harry’s Italian Late, Nootka Rose, Oregon Blue Silverskin, Siskiyou Purple,
Elephant garlic is not technically garlic at all, though it looks, acts, and tastes similarly. It is a leek, and has a much milder flavor than true garlic. The bulbs usually form giant 3-6 cloves. This type will produce a scape, like hardneck garlic, and also stores about the same as hardnecks.
Soil Preparation and Fertility
Garlic is a green, leafy plant for most of its life cycle. This means that it requires plenty of nitrogen for healthy, vigorous growth. But it is also a bulb, like a tulip, and so needs a fair amount of phosphorous as well. We fertilize our garlic prior to planting with a 4-4-4 chicken manure product. In the Pacific Northwest many soils are low in calcium and sulfur. In this situation gypsum is a great amendment. Because garlic is in the ground for so long, it requires an additional application of fertilizer in the spring. We top dress in early April with fish bone meal (4-16-0) because our soils are very deficient in phosphorous. If your soil has adequate phosphorous, top dressing with a good source of nitrogen (such as blood meal) is recommended. We also apply a foliar mix of fish emulsion and kelp extract 2 – 3 times from late April to early May.
Garlic “Seed” Preparation / Cracking and Planting
In preparation for planting, the bulbs need to be cracked; that is, the outer papery hull needs to be removed and the cloves need to be separated and sorted for easy planting. It is important to use only firm garlic bulbs and cloves for seed. If cloves give a little, that is okay, but NEVER use a clove that is soft or has obvious mold damage. The vigor of the plant and the size of the garlic bulb are determined by both the size of the parent bulb and the size of the parent clove. For this reason, it is best to choose medium-large size bulbs and cloves when planting. We use only the 75% largest cloves for planting and there is no need to peal the clove wrappers. The larger the clove, the more energy resources the young plant will have to draw upon in its initial stage of growth. For us in the Willamette Valley, the best time to plant garlic is October, but it can also be planted through February. Later plantings will result in smaller bulbs. Plant one clove every 6-8” in rows that are 1′ apart. Make sure the clove is covered by at least 1-2” of soil, with the blunt end pointing down.
Care and Cultivation
Garlic should sprout and come up within 2-4 weeks, but this can vary depending on seed storage, and climate and soil conditions. Most growers mulch garlic 2-3” thick with straw or leaves. This helps keep weeds down and limits fluctuations in soil temperature and moisture content. Mulching can be done at planting time because the first leaf shoot that the bulb sends up is a specialized leaf that can break through barriers such as soil and mulch. In our area, garlic tends to grow 4-6” in the fall, then go dormant from December – February. Growth begins again late February to early March (this is when spring fertilizing begins). Garlic is very sensitive to weed pressure and needs to be cultivated regularly to be free of weeds.
Pay attention to the leaf color and shape during the growing season, and cull plants that look off – yellow or curled leaves, deformed stems, stunted growth, etc.
By late May, the plants stop leaf production and begin to bulb out. Stop fertilizing at this time. May is also a good time to scout for “doubles” – when two plants emerge from one spot. Pull out any doubles until only one plant remains. Leaving doubles in the ground results in smaller bulbs. We joyfully eat our doubles as green garlic! In mid-May to June, the hardneck and elephant garlics (and potentially some of the softneck) will send up a flower stalk from the center of the plant, this is called a garlic scape. Wait to remove the scape until it curls (or whips) around itself, then pinch it off at the base. Also known as garlic whistles (for the sound they make when pulled out), they are a gourmet delicacy: a mild garlic flavor with the texture of asparagus. YUM! We highly recommend garlic scape pesto! (And pickles!) Removing the scape allows the plant to send more energy to its bulb, and results in bigger garlic, so even if you don’t want to eat it, it is important to break it off. If you leave the scape on it will flower and produce little bulbils that can be planted. These will form garlic bulbs in two years.
Fortunately, the rainy season takes care of most of the watering needs of garlic plants here in the Pacific Northwest. In late April to mid-May, if the rain stops, the garlic still needs to get regular watering. Irrigate garlic at least once a week until two or three weeks before harvest. In mid-late June, plant leaves will begin to yellow from the tips downward and the outside leaves inward. Stop water when a few of the leaves have dried down, typically the middle of June.
Plants are ready to harvest when 50% of the leaves are all dried down. If you wait until the entire plant is dry, you will lose a lot of the wrappers during harvest and/or may end up with bulbs that have cracked open – both result in decreased storability. For us, harvest of mature bulbs begins with Artichoke types in late June or early July, hardnecks around mid-July, and finishing off with Silverskins by the end of July. Harvest time can be a few weeks earlier or later depending on weather and growing conditions each season.
To harvest, simply pull the garlic out of the ground. But be careful, fresh garlic bruises very easily and will not store well if the neck or cloves are damaged, so it’s best not to drop or throw bulbs. If a bulb is damaged in harvest, it is best eaten fresh. Uncured fresh garlic is a real treat! Even with our tractor digging tool bar which makes garlic harvest a lot easier, we sometimes need to use a digging fork to loosen the soil around the base of the bulb. Again, take care not to stab the bulb with the fork. (We call this farmer blight.) Freshly harvest garlic should be kept out of direct sunlight so don’t let it linger too long out in the field or garden when harvesting.
Garlic needs to be cured for it to store properly. If it is not cured, it will not keep for very long and will likely develop mold. Your garlic storage and curing location should be out of direct sunlight and have good air circulation. We use our barn with a combination of pallet racks and hanging from the rafters. Don’t cut your leaf stalks (necks) or the roots before curing. Garlic will cure better and last longer if it is cured with them on. Be sure to remove as much dirt as possible from the roots (we do this in the field during harvest).
The simplest way to store and cure is to tie a string around the stalks of a dozen or so plants and hang the bundles in a shed or garage.
To prep garlic for long term storage, clip the leaf stalk, trim the roots, and remove as few of the papery leaf sheaths as possible – just enough to be ‘clean.’ Note that the more wrappers on the bulb, the better and longer it stores. Softneck varieties are perfect for braiding. Hardneck varieties should be eaten first as they won’t store as long. We bring all our garlic into the house from the barn when the weather gets cool and moist to avoid sprouting. At room temperature, our Silverskin garlic stores through spring.
A note about disease
Garlic is susceptible to fungal, bacterial, and viral diseases that may be naturally occurring in soils and/or introduced by critters in much of the US. Practicing wide crop rotations (5+ years between any onions, garlic, or leek crops) and diligently removing any plants that look like they may be infected are two effective tools for limiting disease in garlic. Infected or questionable garlic should not be planted. If garlic rust is a problem try planting late maturing silverskin types. In western Oregon they seem to be less susceptible to rust.
Much of this information is adapted from:
Growing Great Garlic by Ron L. Engeland, Chelsea Green Publishing, 1991.
The Complete Book of Garlic: A Guide for Gardeners, Growers, and Serious Cooks by Ted Jordan Meredith, Timber Press 2008.