Growing your own garlic could not be any easier, and you'll feel like the most accomplished gardener when you lift those great, big bulbs from the garden! You grew this! You totally rock at gardening!
Plus... After you taste your own, homegrown garlic, you will never, ever want store bought again.
Organically grown garlic from your own garden is plump, fresh, sticky with garlic juices, each clove so full of flavour! Store bought garlic has been bleached, is dry and stale tasting, and was grown in who-knows-what or how. Check into 'night soils', if you are brave enough. Ugh.
Prep the soil...
A few weeks before planting, ideally, amend your soil with manure or compost. Lightly scratch it into the surface. Do not dig it down deep, garlic is shallow rooted. This can also be done at the time of planting.
Your soil should be loose and friable so that you can easily push the cloves straight into the soil, garlic will not grow as well in compacted soil.
As a no-dig gardener, I generally just top dress my beds with compost in the fall , leave them be for the winter, so they are then ready for me to plant up again in spring.
However, the soil in this bed was somewhat heavy and compacted after a summer of growing squash and corn, and I really, really want my garlic to thrive, so I gently lifted it up a bit with a garden fork, and added in the compost in at the same time. Do not ever rototill, as that destroys the soil texture and all those lovely micro-organisms and beneficial fungi threads... not to mention the earthworms.
Garlic does not compete well for water and nutrients, so you need a weed free bed.
Quickly run the Winged Weeder over the bed before planting, to knock down anything that may be germinating or taking root. You can use any hoe that you like, of course, I just like this one as it slices through the soil like butter, and lifts the weeds right out of the bed without digging into the soil. A no-dig gardeners dream tool.
My bed was already growing pansies, violas, and calendula, just a few weeks after amending it, but it took just a couple of minutes to weed the entire 40 foot long bed.
How to choose your garlic...
Buy your bulbs from a reputable source or save your own for planting. Do not buy the stuff from the grocery store as it may have been sprayed with a growth inhibitor. Pick some up from an independent garden shop, a farmer's market, a farmer, a local grower... so many places to get fresh, organically grown garlic from. Do not plant if it has dried up or is mouldy.
Plant your fattest and biggest cloves, leaving the small ones for cooking. It is the size of the clove that determines the size of next year's bulbs, smaller cloves maker smaller bulbs.
Break your bulbs up into cloves.
Plant your garlic cloves anywhere from 4 to 8 inches apart. My garlic farmer guy plants his on a 7 inch spread, so I do the same. If it works for the professionals, it should work for me, too ; )
I also make each row 7 inches apart. So, each clove of garlic is 7 inches apart from the others on all sides.
I gently press the handle of my rake or hoe into the soil to keep my rows straight.
Push each clove of garlic into the soil to a depth of about 3 inches. Meaning that it should have 2 inches of soil above the tip of the clove. Plant with the pointy end of the garlic at the top, cap at the bottom.
Don't forget to label your garlic if you are growing several types. You think you will remember who you planted, but probably won't ; )
I separate the types with these black garden trellises that get planted up with sweet peas in late October or early November.
That is it, cover up the planting holes. If you need more manure or compost, this is a great time to add a top dressing. That's it, that's all, walk away. Your garlic needs no further care till you harvest scapes in spring.
If you plant earlier in the fall and your ground is super duper dry, put the sprinkler or weeping hoses on it for a few hours to get them off to a good start. We have had some rain already this fall and will have more coming next week, so no need for me to water.
Your garlic will start shooting up in late fall or sometime in the winter, depending on the weather. Do not worry, this is normal and they are tough as nails. All will be well.
Some folks will cover their beds for the winter, with straw or leaves, and remove it again in spring. I do not bother with this extra step. Here on the island, even our toughest winters do not faze the garlic.
If you are live in a colder gardening zone and are reading this, you will have planted your garlic already in September. Wait till the air is cold and the ground freezes just a bit, and then add a cover of leaves or straw, usually in mid to late October. Never mulch anything when the ground is still warm.
Harvest scapes in May/June next year, and the bulbs in July.