This bulb-based herb is winter-hardy and easy to grow.
type of perennial: herb
It comes in two varieties. Softneck, which include artichoke and silverskins, does best in warm climates. For cold climates choose a hardneck variety, such as rocambole, purple stripe, or porcelain.
WHERE GARLIC THRIVES
Garlic is resistant to frost and even hard freezes if the soil is well-drained. Most varieties actually prefer the cold to mild growing conditions. If you have soggy soil, the cold winter temperatures will freeze the water and displace the newly planted garlic cloves causing them to rot as the soil warms in the spring.
Optimal shade & sun
Garlic grows best in full sun.
Adaptability to climate extremes
Garlic is hardy even in extreme cold but it still needs protection. Applying a cover of mulch helps it weather long, cold winters.
Garlic grows well in light, sandy soils but still needs to be watered frequently in spring drought conditions to promote healthy root development. Once the garlic is established and has a scape, the long and leafless flowering stem, garlic can tolerate drought conditions.
PREP YOUR SOIL
Optimal type of soil
This herb prefers a slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH balance 6.5 to 7) and grows best in moist, well-drained, loose and sandy conditions. The loose soil allows the bulbs to easily grow without damaging the papery skin that protects the garlic bulb from rot. That said it is tolerant of a variety of soil types except for heavy clay.
Separate the bulb into individual cloves two to three days before planting. Keep the papery wrapping on each clove to help prevent them from rotting in the ground. Plant cloves four inches deep and about six inches apart, with the pointy side of the clove facing upwards. If you are planting garlic in warm climates you will have to chill your cloves before planting. Garlic needs roughly 6-12 weeks of cold temperatures to develop harvestable bulbs. This can be a huge challenge in warmer climates. Lucky, you can trick your cloves into thinking it’s winter by placing them in the fridge for up to 12 weeks prior to planting. This process is known as vernalization.
Best time of year to plant
Garlic can be planted in the spring but fall is the optimal time for yielding the most intense flavor and the largest bulbs. Plant it about one month before the ground freezes and be sure to apply mulch to protect it against the winter chill.
Garlic is a wonderful companion plant for many of your favorite garden annuals. Plant a border of garlic around your vegetable garden to ward off deer and rabbits. Garlics pungent smell helps to deter some of the most common garden pests like cabbage worms, spider mites, aphids, carrot rust fly and japanese beetles. Pair garlic with beets, celery, carrots, tomatoes, and cabbage to reduce damage caused by these pests. The chemicals that make garlic a powerful pest deterrent can also inhibit the growth of peas, beans and asparagus so avoid planting these crops amongst each other.
Garlic shoots will emerge in the spring as the soil warms. About three weeks from bulb harvest, you will notice a firm, round leafless flower stem or garlic scape emerge from the center of the garlic leaves. Some growers cut off each scape to produce a more robust bulb. The shoots taste delicious and grow woodier as they mature so the earlier you cut them the more tender and tasty they'll be. Others prefer to keep them until after the garlic is harvested to increase the storage potential of the bulbs and provide so added beauty in the garden. If left uncut, garlic scapes will straighten and bloom into whitish pink pom poms that bees love.
Water your garlic every three to five days in spring when the bulb is forming. Don't water it after July or the bulbs may rot. Consider harvesting your garlic early if you're experiencing a particularly wet summer. When planting in the fall water your garlic deeply every few days to make sure the roots develop. If you are growing garlic in warmer climates, deep but infrequent watering may be necessary in the winter. Soaking your garlic once every 10 days and letting the soil dry completely will encourage deep root growth where soil temperatures are cooler. This cold weather crop will enjoy the cooler soil and you’ll have a better harvest for it!
Mulching helps garlic weather long cold winters. Cover your garlic plants with a generous layer of straw mulch in the fall, up to 4-6 inches. The colder the winter the more mulch you should use. Many gardeners choose to keep the mulch in place after spring to limit weed growth
Before planting your garlic cloves in the fall, incorporate a generous amount of compost into the soil. You can add compost into the trenches you make for planting to minimize soil disruption. Do not use fertilizers high nitrogen during fall planting because that will encourage leaf growth instead of root development that is necessary for garlic to survive the winter. In the spring, garlic requires nitrogen to flourish so use a high nitrogen fertilizer (16-0-0) when the pants are a foot high, particularly if you notice yellowing leaves. Stop fertilizing once the garlic scape appears to ensure that all of the plants energy goes towards bulbs development. If you feed your plant too much nitrogen you’ll have lush leaves but little to no bulbs.
Weed your garlic regularly. Mulching helps keep weeds at bay.
Pest are not a problem because this herb actually repels them.
Garlic is susceptible to white rot, a fungus that attacks the roots and leaves of garlic in the winter, and garlic rust, a fungal disease that attacks the leaves. To prevent rot from spreading make sure to clean it up all infected plant residue after harvesting so it doesn't spread throughout the garden. Do not compost infected leaves of roots, burn infected plant material or bring them to your local green waste drop off. Planting your garlic in a new spot each year also helps fend off fungal disease.
Particular growing challenges
Knowing when to harvest garlic may be its biggest challenge. Do it too soon and the bulbs don't mature. Too late and the bulbs may have begun to open. In neither case will the bulbs store well.
It's time to pick garlic when the bottom two leaves yellow and wither. In most Northern climates this occurs in July or August but it varies according to when you planted your cloves.To harvest garlic, carefully loosen the soil and dig out the bulbs and take care not to tear the paper, which protects it from going bad.
Keep garlic in a well-circulated place at room temperature: a bag with holes in it, a wire or mesh container, or even a paper bag. Do not store garlic in the refrigerator.
Hang or place garlic bulbs in a shady, dry, warm spot for a couple of weeks. This process is called curing. Once dry, you can store them with the wrappers still on. Garlic flavor only increases when dried.