Garlic is a common herb, using in seasoning and flavoring a variety of dishes. It belongs to the Allium genus, which also includes members of the onion family. Garlic is planted in fall, prior to the first frost. Harvest time for garlic is typically in summer but can be from late spring to early fall. Here is a guide to help you grow garlic from bulbs.
Preparing the Soil
Garlic can be grown with ease in just about any type of soil. However, garlic prefers soils with ample drainage and fertility. Amending the soil with organic matter like worm compost, hot compost, and manure, can help to create a loamy soil for garlic to thrive. Garlic prefers soils with neutral acidity, so strive for a pH balance of 6 to 7. Agricultural lime can be used to boost the acidity of alkaline soils and elemental sulfur can be used to lower soil acidity.
Preparing the Garlic
When it comes time to plant the garlic, the bulbs will need to be broken apart into individual clove. It helps to break apart the cloves by hand so that you do not puncture them in the process. Interestingly, the size of the bulb that grows is contingent on the size of the clove that is planted. Therefore, sifting out the smaller cloves is ideal so that only large bulbs grow. The white, flaky exterior of the clove needs to remain intact. If any garlic is punctured, damaged, or bruised within the process, do not plant it.
Planting the Garlic
Garlic should be planted in fall, to be harvested the following spring. It is ideal to plant garlic about 4 to 6 weeks prior to the anticipated frost date in your area. This will enable the garlic to establish itself before the frost hits. If you happen to live in a warm climate, then the garlic will first need to be stored at around 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit for two weeks before you plant it. This will help to kick start the germination process. The cloves should be planted at a depth of roughly four inched and spaced at least 6 inches apart in each direction. Always plant the cloves with the base facing downward and the pointed end facing upward.
Be sure to mulch the garlic immediately after planting, using two to three inches of seedless straw, newspaper, or leaves. Mulch is an excellent insulator and will keep the garlic a little warmer while the cloves germinate. It also helps to retain moisture in the soil and keep weeds at a minimum. The mulch can be removed in the following spring, around the time of the final frost.
You can fertilize garlic in the early springtime, to maximize the growth of the bulbs. Use an organic and nutrient dense fertilizer like fish emulsion. Garlic doesn’t need much fertilizer to grow. One to three applications, depending on soil quality, is all that is needed
The time to harvest garlic is contingent on the climate of your region. Typically, garlic is ready for harvest between the months of June and August, but may be ready sooner depending on when and where it was planted. You can tell that the garlic is harvestable once its lower leaves have turned yellowish and the bulbs are sufficiently sized. Harvest garlic bulbs in a method similar to how one would harvest potatoes. Using a pointed garden spade, unearth all of the soil around each plant, carefully avoided the bulb. Then pull the bulb out of the ground and brush off the pack soil around the bulb. Be sure to leave the top of the plant attached to the bulb, as it will store longer that way. The garlic will need to be hung in dark and warm area to cure. In three to four weeks, the garlic should be fully dried and ready to eat.