Time to Plant: Garlic

Oct 16, 2009

I planted a few varieties of garlic yesterday. The entire month of October is prime garlic planting time. Purchase culinary garlic bulbs for planting (preferably not from the grocery store-often they are treated to prevent sprouting). You'll usually find varieties of Softneck, Hardneck and Elephant garlic. The Softnecks are better adapted to warmer  climates. Hardnecks will have a hard shoot that emerges from the middle of the bulb. They often have a more strong, hot flavor. Elephant garlic produces huge bulbs but a milder flavor. Split the bulb up into the separate cloves. You can peel the tunic off the clove if you want to but you don't have to.  Plant each clove about two-inches deep and each clove several inches apart. Choose a sunny spot with rich well draining soil. I plant mine in raised beds. Fall is the best time to plant garlic as it needs a cool period to develop a root system, before it begins to put on heavy bulb growth with the return of warm temperatures. 


The following spring, leaves and scapes (flower shoots) will emerge and grow through spring. Fertilize your garlic with an organic veggie/herb food in early spring, just as the leaves begin to emerge. When it turns hot plants will bolt (flower) usually late-spring early-summer.  After bulbs have bolted, you'll wait to harvest them until the lower leaves have started to turn yellow and die off. Once you've harvested your garlic, you'll need to let it cure (dry down) for a couple of weeks. Don't cut off the foliage or roots. Set them in a shady dry spot, perhaps a shed, where they can dry. After the foliage/roots are completely dry, then you can trim them if you want to and store. You can save a few of your garlic bulbs to re-plant the following fall, or eat it all and buy new ones!

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Tessa at Blunders with shoots, blossoms 'n roots
Oct 16, 2009
7:10 pm

Sounds yummy! Do you eat garlic scapes too?

Oct 17, 2009
2:38 am

I just planted garlic for the first time.  150 cloves of 5 different varieties!!  Overkill? Perhaps, but I bought a sampler pack cause I couldn’t choose and since one of my favorite recipes is “chicken and 40 cloves” it won’t go to waste! I’m excited to compare varieties. I’ve only had the nameless grocery store garlic.

I have a couple of questions though.
How far apart should the cloves be planted from each other? I just guessed.  I pretended that the bulbs would be the size of my fist and then gave them an inch or two between that.

Second question… CAN you eat garlic straight from the garden or must it be dried first? I’ve always heard that you must dry the garlic out, but that is for storage, right?  If I wanted to cook with my garlic on the day I harvest it, would it taste ok or must it be dried to develop flavor or something? (sorry if this is a dumb new gardner question.)

Leslie Finical Halleck
Oct 17, 2009
9:50 am

Tessa, Hi there. Yes, you can also eat the scapes. I will do that in the spring. You can start chopping them off as soon as they appear. The scapes are basically the flower stalk and the flower head which contains bulbils. Garlic does not produce seed, it only reproduces asexually. The bulbils aren’t really seeds, but rather teeny baby bulbs. These bulbils can be planted like seed, but will take several years to develop into a full garlic bulb. That’s why most people just plant the larger cloves. The scapes have a nice green bean texture with a not as strong garlicy flavor. You can even make a lovely pesto with them!

Leslie Finical Halleck
Oct 17, 2009
9:56 am

SerenDippity - you probably planted them the right distance apart. It usually depends on the variety and how large it gets as to how far apart you plant them. You need a good 3-4 inches for the bulb to develop.

You can eat it straight away from the garden, however if you harvest a bulb you’ll need to use it pretty quickly. It won’t store well until it’s been cured. Also, the bulb will reabsorb some nutrients from the leaves as it cures.

Oct 20, 2009
12:47 pm

Ok, Serendipity, I’m thinking you need to post your “chcken and 40 cloves” recipe!

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