The fall is the time of year I plant many of my favorite bulbs, like daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. It’s also the time of year I plant one of my favorite bulbs for eating and that’s garlic.
Garlic likes to grow in cool temperatures, but it needs to be planted well before the ground freezes. In cooler parts of the country, it may be a little late, so you’ll have to wait until early spring to plant it. But in milder parts of the country, this is an ideal time to get it in the ground.
You can find garlic sets at farm co-op stores or you can use the same ones you would buy for recipes from the produce section of the grocery store. To prepare them for planting, just break the bulbs apart into separate cloves.
I have found garlic grows best in soil that is loose and crumbly. That’s why I always work in some extra sand into my clay soil. When it comes to nutrients, I use some good old homemade compost, and for organic supplements, I use a little potash and blood meal as a source of nitrogen. If you add these ingredients to your soil, just follow the directions on the label.
I plant the cloves about 4 to 6 inches apart and about 2 to 4 inches below the surface. When I place them I make sure they are upright with the top of the clove pointing skyward.
Soon the cloves take root and push up little green tops. I like to mulch them with some old straw for a little winter protection. The mulch also helps to keep the soil consistently moist. This is important if you want nice, plump cloves, so be sure to check the soil to make sure it doesn’t become too dry.
To grow large bulbs, pinch off any flowers that develop as the plant grows. This directs all the energy to the bulb. It also helps to keep the garlic beds as weed free as possible.
You’ll know it’s time to harvest the garlic when the leaves turn brown and stems fall over. It’s best to get in the beds and dig them up when this happens because the bulbs will rot if they are left in the ground much longer.
Once they are harvested, avoid storing them where they will freeze. You’ll find they will last longer if you keep them in a cool, dry location.