How and When to Plant Garlic
Read on for details on how to grow this wonderfully scented, deliciously easy-to-grow kitchen staple in your home garden.
Fall is the time to get garlic into the ground. The cloves get a head start on the growing season so that by late summer, you’ll have a nice supply of the health-boosting bulbs. While the initial shoots might die back or stop growing during the winter, they will pick up again in the spring with the head start of established roots.
How to Plant Garlic
While you can try planting the leftover cloves from last night’s spaghetti, most of the garlic distributed for food has been sprayed with an inhibitor to prevent sprouting. Instead, shop for one of the hundreds of varieties from a trusted online nursery or visit your favorite local provider.
Once you’re ready to plant, follow these exceedingly simple instructions:
- Remove the clove from the outer bulb—but don’t remove the outer tissue layer from the clove.
- Place each cloves about two inches below the surface of the soil, pointing up. Space the cloves about six inches away from each other.
- Cover the plantings mulch (and straw if you live in an especially cold part of the U.S.).
Hardneck vs. Softneck Garlic
There are two sub-varieties of garlic.
- Hardnecks stand up to cold climates and have a long stiff stem that prevents braiding.
- Softnecks prefer milder winters and have a stem that becomes pliant and easy to braid as the cloves ripen. These are the type ubiquitous in grocery stores, as they are easy to grow on a large scale.
Stop watering the garlic at the beginning of the summer to let the bulbs become firm.
It’s time to bring up the bulbs when the leaves of the garlic plant have turned brown in midsummer. Dig them up and then let them cure in a dry, well-ventilated space for about four to six weeks before cooking them up.
Note: with hardneck varieties of garlic, you’ll start seeing long, spiky tendrils, or scapes, beginning to appear in the warmer months. Cutting these scapes back will make it so more of the plant’s energy goes into creating a bigger bulb. Although doing so isn’t necessary, it does result in a mini harvest, as the scapes can be used in the kitchen before your full cloves come in!