Are you planting any garlic this year? If you are, the time to plant is coming soon! Planting garlic can seem intimidating to new growers, but, in my opinion, it’s one of the simplest crops to grow!
You may wonder, why do we plant garlic in the fall? Like many other plants that we grow from bulbs, planting garlic in the fall lets the roots start to grow, and then the plant goes dormant (stops growing) in the winter. Once spring comes, the garlic bulb begins growing again; you should see the grass-like leaves sprout up as temperatures begin to rise.
You want to plant garlic with enough time to set the root, but not enough time for it to begin growing above ground, which is usually in the beginning or middle of October in our climate (Zone 5B). If your plants begin to sprout a bit before winter, don’t worry, they will be fine.
So, how do we plant it? The first step is prepping your beds – it’s important to start with a weed-free bed, to make sure the garlic can grow without having to fight for nutrients and space. It also helps to add a bit of compost to your garden before planting, to make sure you have healthy, rich soil for the garlic to grow in.
The next step is prepping your bulbs. You’ll want to plant just a single garlic clove, not an entire bulb of garlic. If you put the entire bulb of garlic in the ground, it would grow, but you would get lots of little garlics next year, instead of a nice big bulb (because they would be competing for space!). Separate a bulb of garlic into the individual cloves, and plant them with the pointed side up. The flat part of the garlic is the root end, which is where the roots were when the garlic was growing before. It’s important to put that root end facing down, because that’s where the new roots will grow!
You’ll want to plant the bulbs 2-4 inches deep (remember the rule of thumb; if the garlic bulb is 1 inch long, plant it 2 inches deep), and you’ll want to leave about 6 inches between plants. Make sure to avoid garlic cloves that have spots or rot on them; this could mean that the garlic bulb is infected with a fungus or disease, and you don’t want to put that back into your garden.
Where can you get garlic? You can always use garlic that you grew this season to plant, but if you are just starting, you’ll need to buy some. Garlic from the grocery store is usually not the best choice, because it can bring disease to your garden, and it might not be the best variety for your area. You can sometimes get garlic from garden stores (like Agway), but the best place to get seed is from a local farmer, or a fellow gardener. Many people have seed varieties that have been working for them for years, and chances are, they will work for you too. Check out your local farmer’s market, or ask a gardener you know if they have extra seed.
What type of garlic should I grow? There are two types of garlic: softneck and hardneck. Up north, we usually grow hardneck garlic, and softneck garlic is usually grown in the south. There are many varieties of hardneck garlic, and you can’t go wrong if you get seed from someone who has grown in our climate before.
If you want more in-depth information on growing garlic, check out VINES Green Thumb Workshop, Growing Garlic, on October 5th, from 5:30-6:30 (more information at https://vinesgardens.org/programs/green-thumb-educational-series/). The best advice for garlic growing, however, is don’t be afraid! Garlic is a great beginner crop, just put the bulbs in the ground, and watch them grow! Happy planting!