Gardening with PA Master Gardeners – Garlic

Growing Garlic – Its Planting Time

One of the most popular fall planting crops is garlic. It is a vegetable related to the onion family and is recognized for its high nutrient value, versatility in cooking and resistance to plant disease and pests.

A few interesting facts about garlic before we get to the steps in planting:

California produces the most garlic in the US and the Gilroy Garlic Festival attracts over 100,000 people every year. You can smell garlic as you drive through the town and purchase garlic ice cream if it suits your taste.

China produces about 2/3 of the world’s garlic (46 billion pounds) and there is a chance that your grocery store garlic could be from China.

Garlic is packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants and is believed to help in reducing high blood pressure and cholesterol.

So how do we grow our own fresh version of this fragrant, flavorful and nutritious vegetable?

Here are a few key tips for growing garlic:

  1. Late September to mid-October is the best time to get garlic cloves in the ground. Be sure to choose a sunny location and amend the soil with compost.  The soil compost mix should be loosened to a depth of about 6 inches to ensure bulbs to fully mature  

  2. Purchase garlic from a local garden center or better yet from a local farmer who grows it. This will ensure that it is a variety suitable for the area. There are two classes:  hardneck and softneck and several varieties of each.   Generally hardneck is the preferred choice in this area.  Do NOT use grocery store garlic as your seed source.

  3. Separate the cloves from the bulb as you would for cooking. The larger the clove, the larger the bulb it will produce at maturity.  Leave the paper skin on the clove when planting

  4. Plant your cloves root side down and upright. Cloves should have about 4 to 8 inch spacing and should be covered with at least 2 inches of loose soil.  You can then cover with any mulch material available such as grass clippings, leaves or straw.

  5. The garlic stalk will poke through in the spring (usually quite early) and you can remove the covering. Keep the garlic evenly  watered  and you will be ready to harvest by about mid-July.  We will talk more about harvesting next June.

Garlic is one of my favorite garden plants and there is nothing like the smell of freshly picked garlic and the cooking fragrance it produces in the kitchen.

As always do your research for growing garlic if you need more details. Get that garlic in the ground and enjoy the benefits of your own harvest.