Why Should You Plant Garlic In The Fall?
I love garlic! I never really knew how much I liked it until I was an adult and cooking for myself. So in the interest of saving money, I have decided to grow my own garlic. I have a neighbor who always plants a huge crop of garlic and I love driving by in early spring to see the first green shoots coming out of the ground. It is one of the earliest signs that it’s gardening time.
Garlic has a chance to make its early appearance because most gardeners plant it in the fall. The roots of the garlic develop in the fall and winter before the ground freezes. But don’t plant too early. You don’t want your garlic to start forming top growth before the first freeze. A good rule is to plant garlic 6 to 8 weeks before your first frost. You can check the average frost dates here.
Prepare Your Soil
Garlic will grow best in fertile, well-drained soil. Add compost and a good 10-10-10 fertilizer to the soil and work it in well. If you are planting in raised beds make sure that you have 10-12 inches of rich fertile soil. Garlic does not compete well for nutrients so you need to make sure that your soil is free from grass and weeds.
How to Plant Garlic
Choose a healthy variety bulb that is free from disease. Do not plant garlic from the grocery store. Most of it has been treated for longer shelf life. You can order your garlic from Burpee (affiliate link) or your local seed store.
- Break the cloves away from the bulb but keep the skin on each clove.
- Place cloves pointed end facing up.
- Plant about 4 inches apart and 2 inches deep.
- Plant in rows 12 inches apart.
- Pat the soil down on top of the cloves.
- Water thoroughly.
- In the Northern states add 4 to 6 inches of mulch for winter protection.
- In warmer climates, you can add a thin layer of mulch for weed control.
Caring for Your Garlic in the Spring
You shouldn’t have to do much for your garlic in the winter. Rain and snow should provide enough moisture so that the cloves don’t dry out. In the spring when the leaves begin to grow you will need to apply a high nitrogen fertilizer such as blood meal. You can work it into the soil around each plant. If your variety of garlic produces a flower you should cut it off so that all of the nutrients go into the bulb and not the flower.
You should begin to look for changes to your garlic in early June. When the plant stops producing leaves it will begin to produce bulbs. If there is still mulch around the plants at this time it should be removed. You will also want to stop watering at this point.
When and How to Harvest Garlic
You can harvest your garlic between July and August when the leaves turn brown.
- Carefully dig up the bulbs.
- Lay it out to dry for 2 to 3 weeks in a shady area with good air circulation.
- Keep them dry during this process so that they can be stored.
- You can use the garlic at any time during this process.
- After the bulbs have dried out rub off the dirt and the roots.
- Be careful not to bruise or damage the bulbs.
You will want to store your garlic in a cool dry place with good air circulation. The most ideal temperature is 60-65 degrees with moderate humidity. If you find any soft bulbs you should use those immediately because they will not store well.
There are some creative ways to store garlic. To begin with, you should cut the stems 1 to 2 inches above the bulb unless you are braiding.
- Mesh produce bags are the quickest and easiest ways to store garlic.
- Braid your soft neck garlic.
- Put them in wire baskets in your pantry or dark place in your kitchen.
- Store under an unglazed clay pot in your pantry.
Once you have broken the bulb apart you can still store the unused cloves.
- Store in the refrigerator inside of a tightly sealed container for up to 2 weeks.
- Mince garlic and a little water and freeze it in ice cube trays. Put in a sealed container after it freezes.
- Freeze whole cloves with the skin on.
- Roast your garlic and then store in the refrigerator for 1 week or freezer up to 1 year.
- Pickled garlic can be stored in the refrigerator until you are ready to use it.
- Dehydrate your garlic and then store in a sealed container.
- Place cloves in vinegar or white wine and store in the refrigerator for up to 3 months.
Garlic is prone to Clostridium botulinum. Be careful when storing whole garlic in the refrigerator. If you put your garlic in oil to make a dressing be sure to use it within a few days or freeze it.
My First Garlic Crop
I am so excited to plant my first garlic crop this year. I have learned so much during my research and I plan to try each of the methods of storing to see which ones I prefer. I would love to hear about your experience with garlic so comment below or send me an email.