For lovers of the bulb, no dish is complete without several cloves of garlic. Growing it yourself gives you access to plenty of garlic as well as to a larger variety than what you would find in the store. Garlic is usually planted in late fall, just a few weeks before the first frost, and it is then ready for harvest in summer. The following guide can help you get a bed ready for planting this tasty plant.
Choose the right spot
Garlic grows best in a bed that receives direct sunlight all day, so avoid shaded locations. Also, remember to look up when choosing a bed. A sunny fall bed may be in deep shade by spring if there is a deciduous tree overhead.
It is also best to choose a bed that is well drained. Avoid garden beds that hold onto moisture and become soggy, since this will cause the bulbs to rot. Finally, skip any plot that had garlic or onions in it the year before. These plants are in the same family so they share pests and diseases while depleting the nutrients from the soil. Waiting a couple of years before growing related plants in the same spot ensures problem organisms die off and nutrients are replenished.
Improve the soil
Once you have your planting site, only a little preparation is needed. Spread a couple of inches of compost over the soil and work it in about 6 inches. This ensures there are plenty of nutrients in the rooting zone and it also helps aerate the soil so the garlic gets plenty of oxygen. Avoid walking on the soil, or at least the planting rows, after you have worked the soil. You don't want to compact it.
Prepare to plant
There are a couple of ways to plant garlic that you've purchased from a company like Keene Garlic. If you are growing quite a bit and using long planting rows, trenching is the quickest method. Dig a 4-inch deep trench down each row. When it's time to plant, simply break apart each garlic bulb and drop the individual cloves in the trench with the pointed side facing up, spacing them about 6 inches apart, and then cover with soil.
For smaller beds or if you are cluster planting, such as in the square foot method, then simply push the garlic into the soil, flat end first, until the tip is about 2 or 3 inches beneath the soil surface. Try and maintain a 4- to 6-inch spacing between cloves in all directions so the bulbs have room to form.
Garlic requires minimal care going forward. You can spread straw mulch over the bed to provide some winter insulation and to keep weeds from growing. Light watering so the soil stays slightly moist is necessary until the first freeze. Your garlic will likely produce small stems during winter, but the bulk of the growth will occur once spring arrives. With weekly watering to keep the soil moist, the foliage will first flourish and then it will yellow and die down come mid-summer. This indicates that it is time to dig and harvest your garlic crop.