Garden editor Johanna Silver shows just how easy it is to plant this edible garden staple
Planting garlic is super easy. All it requires is a garlic bulb, some space in your garden bed, and some advance planning. While you can plant garlic in spring, the ideal planting time for garlic is in fall, as the plant is fairly frost resistant. Fall planting also ensures that it is ready to be harvested the following summer. Plant garlic cloves about one month before the ground freezes. It’s better to use seed garlic from a nursery rather than garlic coves from the grocery store. The latter variety might be treated to prolong shelf life or might not be the ideal variety of garlic to grow in your climate zone. In order to grow, the plant needs rich, uncompacted, well draining soil in full sun. Start with a bulb of garlic. Break the head into individual cloves, and select the largest cloves. Then plant each clove in soil, placed about two inches deep and spaced about four to six inches apart, with the pointy ends facing up. If the soil is feeling dry, go ahead and water it—but don’t irrigate it too much. Garlic needs a moderate amount of water once you see the garlic growing. Overwatering can cause the bulbs to rot. Mulch heavily with straw to maintain the plant. As temperatures warm up in spring, new shoots will emerge from the ground. Water every three to five days in late spring, when bulbing occurs. Pests are not a typical concern for garlic growing in the garden, and the plant is not plagued by diseases that affect other vegetables.
The plant will continue to mature until fully formed in early summer, when the bulb is ready to be harvested. Your tip-off for the best time to harvest will be when the tops begin to yellow and fall over. To harvest, use a spade to lift the bulb out of the soil. Store the bulb in a shady, airy spot for about two weeks, ideally hanging upside down. Then you can use the fresh garlic to give your cooking some extra flavor. Pro tip: The flavor increases the longer the bulbs are dried.