I can’t believe I haven’t written about growing garlic before. Sure, we’ve covered harvesting garlic and even shown you how to make your own garlic braid, but we’ve never started from the beginning on this blog.
Maybe it’s because growing garlic is so easy. It’s the first thing I ever grew on my own (aside from the carrots and peas I grew with my parents as a kid). My boyfriend and I didn’t know a thing about gardening. We dug into our dense clay soil to plant our first cloves. We didn’t even amend it with compost (didn’t know any better). We just planted the cloves and 5 months later we had the most gorgeous looking garlic you’ve ever seen. But if you want to do it right…
The general rule of thumb is hardneck garlic for Northern gardeners and softnecks for Southern. That said, we have friends who break that rule all the time without consequences. We love Kettle River Giant softneck garlic. It’s large, it stores for 9 months and it tolerates our heat and sandy soil.
Commercially available garlic (sold at supermarkets) is usually sprayed with a hormone to retard sprouting, so buy from your farmers market where you can ask the farmer if it’s been sprayed. You can also purchase seed garlic from online catalogs and local nurseries.
Garlic is best grown in fall and harvested the following late-spring. Here in Los Angeles, we plant in October. In places where the ground freezes, you can still plant in fall, but be sure to plant 6-8 weeks prior to your typical hard frost date.
Garlic can be grown in spring, the result is usually a smaller bulb. You can also harvest it as green garlic if you don’t want to wait for full maturity.
Amend Your Soil
Garlic likes loamy soil (don’t tell our first batch of garlic), so add plenty of compost before planting. Have mulch handy to cover bare soil after planting.
We’ve read differing opinions about how deep to plant garlic, anywhere from 4″ deep to tips sticking out above soil surface. We plant our cloves 2″ deep. Here’s a good way to measure: Hold the tip (pointy end) of the clove between your thumb and forefinger. Push the clove into the soil until the second knuckle of your forefinger is at soil level. That’s it.
Spacing for garlic runs the gambit, too. Some plant 6″ apart, others 4″ apart. It’s really up to you. Most years we plant 4″ apart, but last year we suffered a horrible aphid infestation that took down our entire crop. This year, we’re giving our plants a little more breathing room for good air circulation–6″ apart.
Fertilize your plants with compost, worm castings or organic veggie fertilizer about 2 months after planting, and again in another month. Then visit our other blog posts (see above) to learn how to know when the crop is ready to harvest.
Growing your own garlic is very satisfying. Dedicate a little space your growing your year’s supply this fall or spring.