Yes, garlic is absolutely delicious. Fresh garlic is sublime. And garlic is really, really easy to grow.
There are vegetables in the garden that take a lot of work to grow, finnicky and difficult to please, like artichokes, eggplants, and celery, to name a few. Some rewards are easier to snag, though, and home-grown garlic is definitely one.
When to plant garlic
You have two options - spring and fall - but fall is by far the better choice. Fall planting gives your garlic a head start on the following season, and a head start translates into larger bulbs.
Plant your garlic 4 to 6 weeks before the ground usually freezes in your area. Roots will start to grow soon after planting. That's what you want: good root development before plants go dormant. If green shoots appear in the fall, that's just fine.
How to plant garlic
Garlic plants aren't fussy, but they do require loose, fertile soil, a full sun location and a very slightly acid soil (pH 6,5 and 7).
- Turn the soil in your intended garlic patch with a digging fork
- Spread a 5 to 7.5 cm (2-3-inch) layer of organic matter (well-aged mixture of compost, leaf mould and manure is ideal), then dig it in.
- Prepare several shallow furrows in the soil, 20 cm (8 inches) apart.
- Crack open a large head of garlic and select the biggest cloves. Bigger cloves generally produce bigger heads. Toss the smaller cloves into a bowl for the kitchen.
- Place individual cloves 15 à 20 cm (6 to 8 inches) apart in the furrow
- Hold each clove pointed end up (very important)
- Push it into the soil about 7 to 10 cm (3 to 4 inches) deep
- When all your cloves are planted, smooth the soil surface gently with your hands, then water.
- After about a month, spread several inches of mulch over your entire garlic bed. Chopped leaves are excellent, and an excellent way to use raked leaves in the fall. Straw is also just fine.
- After the ground freezes, add another 2 to 3 inches of mulch to help insulate the soil.
In the spring, when the weather warms up and the days grow longer, your garlic will come to life, and the countdown will move ever closer to that first heavenly taste of your first crop!
- Feed with fish emulsion fertilizer during the growing season if the foliage shows any sign of stress (yellow tips).
- Plants are not overly thirsty, but don't let them dry out either; water when the soil has dried out to an inch below the surface.
- By late June, the heads will be starting to form cloves, and it will be time to stop watering.
Pests and Diseases
Prevention is the key to minimizing the risk of pests and diseases.
- Use only clean, disease-free planting stock.
- Clean all tools for soil preparation, weeding, harvesting and storing.
- Weed thoroughly and regularly.
- Throughout the growing season, remove plants that are not doing well; do not compost.