Is so gratifying to watch it grow from a small clove to a harvest of smelly goodness... is also fairly easy to grow, requiring little time or muss or fuss after the initial planting time.
This post is all about tips that will enable you, too, to have great success with your garlic growing, and therefore become fanatical about it, also.
- Buy great garlic from a great, reliable source.
If you do not have an organic garlic farm around or a garlic festival, go to your local farmers market. They will have organically grown, local garlic and you will be supporting local small mom and pops, too. If they do not have garlic for sale, look for a farm stand, a local garden centre, local seed sellers/companies, veggie and fruit stands, small local farms or organic food stores, co-ops, etc.. in your area. Organically grown garlic being sold for eating at your all natural grocers will likely be able to be grown, as well. Find out if it is locally grown so they have not been sprayed with any growth inhibitors.
- When you 'crack' or 'pop' your garlic bulbs open into cloves, try to leave the skins on the cloves.
It is okay if they come off, however, will not hurt your garlic.
- When you plant, water your garlic in to help it start rooting in. Garlic likes even moisture. Also, if really dry in spring, water in well each week, till mid to end June when you start to see yellowing or browning on teh foliage.
- BUT, Garlic does not like to sit in water or it will rot, so raise the gardens by planting in raised beds or hilled gardens.
- Sandy soil or loamy soil is better than clay, though all soils will grow great garlic. Clay is harder to clean off the bulbs when harvesting and you need to make sure it is well draining.
- Plant with the pointy side up. It will still grow if you plant it upside down, but will not size up as well, as it has to grow the top in a circle around the clove and then up thru the ground. Too much energy spent.
- Plant in fall, from mid Sept to late October. Trust me, is not even close to too late yet, no need to fret!
- Plant in a sunny area!
- Plant in raised beds here in the Pacific NW (or make 'hills' in your garden to make sure that you have really, really fabulous drainage!).
- Plant in a bed that has great nutrients and great organic matter. Garlic is a heavier feeder than you might think! Add chicken manure, blood meal, or alfalfa to add great nitrogen. Bonemeal or feathermeal is great for the phosphorous, compost or manure adds the potassium.
- Do keep your bed well weeded for larger bulbs as garlic does not compete well with weeds..
- Do add lime to your bed, a few months before planting to allow for time to change the pH, if your soil is on the acidic side. Neutral pH is best, between 6 and 7.5.
- Do side dress your garlic in late winter, as the growth really kicks in. Alfalfa or blood meal and some bone meal is great, do not dig it in, just scratch in to the surface. Also, foliar feeding is also a great way to feed, with some liquid kelp or seaweed sprayed on about once a month.
- Do space your cloves about 6" to 8" apart for larger bulbs. My garlic farmer guy likes to go with 7". If you go 4" apart you will have smaller bulbs, though more of them.
- Do not plant when the soil is too wet. You want your soil to be warm (10 C) to ensure good rooting in. Cold wet soil will cause your bulb to rot. Planting 3 to 6 weeks before ground freeze is ideal.
- Don't forget to harvest your scape's in June. Tasty to eat and makes for larger bulbs.
- Don't water in July! When you see the yellowing leaves, it is time to leave the garlic alone to finish doing it's thing!
- Don't leave the garlic in the ground too late in spring, pull when the bottom three or four leaves are yellow/brown. Another rule of thumb is when it has 40% browning.
PLEASE NOTE - Leaving garlic in the ground till all the leaves go brown will not make for larger bulbs! It will instead cause your garlic cloves to separate, or even begin to shrivel and rot. The perfect garlic picking window from just right to too late is only about a week.