|Planting garlic with
pointed side up. (Photos provided)
It is said that if you smell garlic cooking, you’re sure to have a good meal. If you love garlic, you’ll
be happy to know that it is one of the easiest crops to grow in the home garden.
Growing garlic is not unlike growing any other bulb in the fall. However, it’s not as easy as getting a
bulb from the supermarket and planting it in the ground. Here are a few things to consider if you want
to grow your own fresh garlic.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is a member of the onion family and is classified into softneck and hardneck
varieties. Softneck varieties are usually the kind sold in grocery stores and are not suitable for
growing in our area as it will not withstand our cold winters. Purchase the sturdier hardneck variety
from either a mail order source or your local farmers market to ensure greater success.
Because garlic must be planted in very early spring to allow full leaf development, most growers prefer
to plant garlic in early to mid-October, before the ground freezes. This will allow enough time for some
root development before winter sets in. If green shoots start to grow in the fall, don’t be concerned.
Garlic is hearty enough to survive our Ohio winters and emerge next spring unharmed.
|Dig up garlic, don’t
pull up, to prevent breakage and bruising.
Garlic grows best in a sunny location with fertile, well-drained soil with plenty of added organic
matter. Individual cloves should be planted two to three inches deep, pointed side up. Remember that
each clove will become an entire head of garlic so you need to allow at least 6 inches of space between
cloves on all sides. Before the ground freezes, add a thick layer of mulch in the form of straw or
leaves to protect the bulbs and prevent frost-heaving. This will also give a head start on weed control
In spring, loosen the mulch to allow the green garlic shoots to emerge. There is little need to water
unless the ground gets very dry. Keep the area free from weeds as garlic will not compete well against
In June, the hardneck garlic varieties will send up a false flower stalk called a scape. Removing the
scapes when they start to curl is good for two reasons. First, this will allow the energy of the plant
to be directed into the development of a larger bulb. Second, the scapes themselves are delicious
whether they be eaten raw for a strong garlic flavor, or cooked for a milder flavor.
There are few pest problems with garlic and most pests can be prevented by exercising good sanitation
practices in the garden. Keep the area free from weeds and debris and don’t plant garlic in the same
spot each year or where onions have been planted.
|Garlic after curing for
Harvest your garlic when the bottom third of the leaves turn yellow, usually in late July or early
August. Bulbs should be dug up rather than pulled to avoid stem injury. Brush off any excess soil and be
careful not to bruise the garlic. Any wounds could predispose the garlic to disease during storage.
Keeping the tops intact, place the garlic in a dry location with good ventilation to cure for several
weeks. Once dry, cut the tops down to about 1 inch in length and store in a cool, dry location.
Depending on the variety and storage conditions, garlic should keep for up to seven months.
If you save the largest cloves to plant next fall, you are guaranteed to have an abundant supply of fresh
garlic year ’round.