Garlic Planting Guide
Fresh, Fantastic Garlic
If you haven't tried truly fresh garlic, do! You'll never go back to the grocery store kind.
Putting in some shallots, too? Here's the info you'll need to get your shallots off to a good start.
- Find a location where the soil drains well. If there are still water puddles 5-6 hours after a hard rain, scout out another site. Or amend the soil with the addition of organic material to raise the level 2 - 3 inches to improve the drainage. Peat moss, compost, ground bark or decomposed manure all work well and are widely available. Garlic develops the largest and most flavorful heads in rich, loose soil.
- Site your garlic where it will get full day sun.
- Break up the garlic heads into individual cloves and plant each 2-3" deep and 6-8" apart, with the pointy end facing upwards. Planting immediately after breaking up the heads prevents the bottom of the cloves from drying out; this drying slows root development. If there are any tiny cloves, these are unlikely to develop into full size heads in a single season so feel free to use them in the kitchen now.
- After planting, water well, gently soaking the soil. Garlic roots will develop in the fall as the temperatures cool. Top growth will also form in areas where the weather is warm year round. Mulching the bed with chopped leaves, grass trimming and alfalfa grass helps moderate soil temperature swings and conserves moisture. (Mulching is not recommended in wet areas for the same reason.)
- In cold weather areas, plants will sprout in the spring. In warm weather areas, the modest winter growth will take off in earnest with spring's higher temperatures. Keep your garlic weed free - cultivate carefully so as not to damage shallow roots - and moderately moist during the growing season. Stop providing any supplimental water 2-3 weeks before harvest (see point 7 below.)
- Hardneck garlic (see variety descriptions) will produce a central stalk that curls into a looped form and develops into a flower/seed head. Cutting these stalks off redirects the plants' energies into bulb production. Snip off the pointy flower/seed head stalks when they produce their first curl. The cuttings are delicious.
Steam them and serve with butter like asparagus, or chop and add to stir fries.
- Garlic plants begin to dry up and turn brown in mid to late summer. This is your cue that harvest time is approaching. Harvest your garlic when there are still 6-7 green leaves on the plants. Dig one plant up and check to see if skins have developed around the cloves. If so, it's harvest time. If not, wait another week and check another plant. Bulbs left in the ground too long will begin to split. If this happens, don't dispair. The garlic will still taste great.
- Harvested garlic should be allowed to dry a bit. Shake off the soil, band in bunches of 6-8 and hang in a shady, dry place that offers good air circulation. Garages are often good spots. Softneck garlic stems are flexible and can be plaited into decorative braids for later use. Experiment with your fresh garlic in the kitchen – it's great fun! And remember, fresh garlic offers more flavor and more punch than the grocery store stuff, so use a little less until you get a feel for the difference.