By: Getty Stewart, P.H.Ec. of gettystewart.com
To get a lovely string of homegrown garlic, you’ve got to get those cloves in the ground now – in the fall!
Fall is the optimum time to plant garlic. In our Zone 2B-3 area, late October is the best time to plant garlic. You want to give the roots a chance to develop, but you don’t want the greens to break through the surface and be killed by the cold. Ideally, you want to plant garlic about three weeks before the ground freezes – what’s your best guess?!
HOW TO PLANT GARLIC
1. Get local garlic – don’t use the garlic from your fridge or some random garlic from some random big name store. You’ll get better results from locally sourced garlic. Next year, after your wildly successful garlic harvest you can plant some of your own garlic!
2. Separate the garlic heads into the individual cloves ( known as “cracking the bulb”). It’s not necessary to remove the papery layer, in fact, it’s better to keep it on and avoid damaging the cloves, especially the bottom or “basal plate” – the part where the roots will develop from. Do this step shortly before planting so the bottom does not dry out.
3. Plant only the nice, big, plump cloves. Basically, what you plant is what you’ll get. If you plant a tiny little clove then you’ll get a tiny little head of garlic at the end of the season. If you plant two cloves stuck together, you’ll get two small squished heads of garlic stuck together. Use the small cloves for dinner tonight!
4. Plant in full sun about 2 inches deep and leave about 4-6 inches between each clove. This always looks like a lot of space to me, but remember, it has to have room to grow and it will be using the nutrients and water around it.
5. Ensure the pointy end is sticking up and the root end is firmly planted in the soil. Cover with soil.
6. Cover garlic bed with 2-4 inches of mulch (leaves) to help protect the garlic from the freeze/thaw cycle.
7. Watch for garlic to sprout early in the spring.If you find cutworms in your garden, consider putting a collar (cardboard tissue roll) around each garlic clove to protect them from these hungry dudes who are eager to chomp anything green in early spring. Can you spot the cutworm in the first picture?
8. Weed well throughout the growing season, garlic doesn’t like competition from weeds.
9. Enjoy scapes in July
10. Harvest in August when the green tops dry out and fall over. That’ll be the cue to harvest the garlic and for us to talk about delicious oven roasted garlic.
WHAT IF IT’S SPRING NOW?
Luckily, if need be, garlic can be planted in early spring as soon as the ground is workable. I know this, because I’ve done it a couple of times when I’ve forgotten or neglected to plant garlic in the fall.
But there are consequences to planting in the spring – bulbs will be smaller and less flavorful. Based on our experience, I would agree they’re definitely smaller and less developed. But there’s still enough flavor to make it worthwhile! So go ahead, plant your garlic just like above, even thought it’s springtime. Results won’t be the best ever, but small garlic is better than no garlic!