Grow, Harvest, and Cure GARLIC - The Fall Crop
Planting garlic is very similar to planting Spring Flowering bulbs, such as tulips. Timing is probably the most important step to successful garlic growing. You plant in the Fall hoping to get roots to establish but not too early to produce top growth until Spring. This can be challenging as some climates are unpredictable. If unsure it is better to plant late than too early, if too early and top growth occurs before Spring the plant will unfortunately not make it through winter.
Plant 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes. If it never freezes plant 1 month before the coolest period of the year. My home state of Michigan zone 5 planting is around mid to end of October.
The bulb needs full sun and heat for the bulb to form as well as soil that is rich in organic matter.
Preparing the soil –
Before planting turn in 1-2” of compost, composted manure, or ¼ cup VermiCompost (worm castings)
Break apart the bulb. Each clove will become 1 bulb by next Summer
Traditional Row Spacing: Raised Beds (Square Foot Gardening):
10” apart in 1’ rows 4” apart – 4 cloves per 12” square
Depth – 2-3” with pointed tip up. In areas with super cold freezing winters you can plant deeper, up to 5”
Mulch – apply layer of straw, leaves, or other mulch which will protect from heaving and decrease competition from weeds in early Spring. This is important in areas that don’t get snow which acts an insulator.
Water - If Fall is dry *Don’t forget to water regularly
Organic Fertilizer – In Spring apply Fish Emulsion, Liquid Kelp, Seaweed, or VermiCompost Tea every 2 weeks
*Too many cloves? Not going to plant it all? Yes, seed garlic is fully edible – Enjoy!
Hardneck varieties produce a Scape a few weeks before harvest (an edible curled shaped flower). This should be removed to force energy to bulb formation. There are 101 delicious recipes for scapes on the web, I prefer mine sautéed in olive oil and red pepper flakes tossed over pasta with Parmesan. YUM!
When the outer leaves turn yellow this is a sign to harvest. Carefully loosen soil around bulb and gently pull, ensuring not to damage or bruise the bulb.
Curing – this is the process when the “paper skin” forms and preserves the garlic for longer storage
Softnecks can be braided. This is the stage that you do this.
You can either trim the leaves and roots now or can cure and remove later. It is a matter of preference. Hang in Small bunches Or Lay on wire rack, ensuring bottom air flow
Either method should be in warm, shaded location for 3-4 weeks. A small fan can be used to help with this process. At this time cut roots and stems off if not already done and wipe off any remaining soil.
Once cured store in mesh bag, cool –dry –dark location for up to 6 months.