Garlic is one of the easiest crops to grow, so relax and have some fun.
We recommend if you haven’t planted garlic you should start with a small bed so you can maintain it properly and enjoy early success. So many of us get excited with a new hobby or our garden but we fail because we get ahead of our abilities or the time necessary to manage the crop properly. One good thing about garlic is that so far whitetail deer don’t bother it, so there is no need for a fence.
Garlic likes loose deep soil 5-8 inches with a good amount of organic material incorporated. It is a heavy feeder so we recommended a few inches of compost, mushroom soil or similar be worked within the top 3-4 inches. We currently at planting time are using Fertrell (organic) 4-2-4 Super N at planting time (fall) to supply the garlic with some nutrients to get the roots established before winter sets in. We also recommend you do a soil test and provide the proper amount of lime to your bed. Your County Extension Service should be able to help you find a soil test kit. It’s not expensive and the results are worth it. Garlic likes a neutral PH.
Larger cloves on average will yield one larger heads of garlic at harvest. So when breaking your garlic hears apart use the larger ones at planting time and set aside the smaller ones for other uses. Certainly these smaller ones can be eaten, dehydrated into garlic power, shared with friends or planted separately. If planting separately these can be harvested in early spring and used like a spring onion.
One has to remember that much of what we receive from our hard work is relying on Mother Nature and outcomes on the size of your garlic will vary from year to year. So be thankful when you get a high percentage of large garlic and not discouraged in those less successful years. Be attentive to your crop, this is probably the most any of us can do to ensure a high degree of success.
When do we plant?
Here in the northeast and in northern latitudes many growers are planting in mid-October. Planting should be done about 6 weeks before the ground freezes so that the garlic establishes a good root system before going dormant the rest of the winter.
We are currently planting in 30” raised beds, with four rows to the bed with a minimum of 6” spacing but not more than 9”. We stager the rows within the bed to provide uniform spacing. (Visually think how “5” appears on a pair of dice). You may want to plant in a single linear row but provide the same spacing within the row 6 to 9 inches. Plant the clove with the root side down and cover with at least an inch of soil.
Garlic will survive the winter at a higher rate if you cover it with some mulch. This insulates the garlic from the winter winds and also lessens the freeze/thawing action that can heave the cloves out of the ground. Apply a thick layer of 4” deep – straw, chopped leaves or grass clippings. Stay away from hay as it likely contains a large amount of weed seeds. Using hay may require you to weed more in than you like come spring.
Plant garlic in the fall around mid-October.
Separate the cloves.
Plant cloves at least 6” apart in prepared soil at least 1” deep, root side down.
Mulch with 4” of straw, chopped leaves of grass clippings before winter.
In spring after the garlic immerges keep it well weeded. There is no need to remove the mulch; we leave it on to help with weed control.
Garlic likes to be kept well watered, an inch a week is recommended.
In June remove the garlic scape from the center of the plant. These are edible so it’s an early treat. Google garlic scape pesto, its wonderful!
Reduce watering as harvest time nears. Harvest when most of the plant is dying. Here in eastern Pennsylvania we are harvesting in the first two weeks of July to give you a benchmark.
Cure the garlic for a few weeks after you harvest. We hang ours from the rafters in bunches of 10-12 in a well-ventilated shed for at least three weeks.
Cut the stems and trim the roots. Remove any dirt and loose paper skin but leave on as much as possible for good storage.
Many growers pre-soak their cloves prior to planting in a sterilizer such as Vodka or 10% Hydrogen Peroxide solution to reduce the chance of introducing diseases into your garlic. Soak the cloves just prior to planting for 20-30 minutes.
In the last few years here in Pennsylvania we are battling the Allium Leaf Miner that came to southeastern PA from Europe. This pest threat should not be taken lightly. It may ruin your entire garlic crop. Penn State Extension is the best source of information and they provide weekly updates in the spring on the emergence of the Allium Leaf Miner. Currently we are using row cover (Agribon 19 or similar insect netting) to exclude the leaf miner from about mid-April until we remove the scapes in June. One also could develop a spray program and routine in lieu of row cover or in combination with row cover after row cover removal. Consider using Bonide’s Captain Jack’s Dead Bug Brew or similar following the product’s instructions.
Upon receipt of your garlic, inspect it for any issues. We ask that you notify us within 5 working days of any issue, so we can promptly rectify the problem.
Garlic stores best and longest in a cool, dark and low humidity environment.
Stored properly garlic can last easily up to 6 to 7 months.
Avoid storing garlic in the refrigerator
Store in a cool basement out of the light or in your air condition house.
Avoid any place where there are large swings in temperature.