Growing garlic is easy! Plant the cloves in fall like you plant spring flowering bulbs. Garlic is then harvested in late spring/early summer. Follow these guidelines for fresh, homegrown garlic in your favorite recipes.
Break the bulb apart, leaving the peel on the individual cloves. Pick an area with good drainage. Amend your loosened soil with Bio-tone and The Growing Place Garden Mix. Plant individual cloves 3”-4” deep, pointed end up, spaced 6”-8” apart. Mulch heavily, 3” minimum, with straw, shredded leaves, or hay. Mulching protects against frost heaving, keeps moisture more uniform, and helps negate weed competition.
Expert Tip: For biggest heads, plant in fall about 4-6 weeks before the first frost. The later you plant, the less cloves you will have. Garlic thrives on the moderate nights of spring, and summer sun. If temperatures stay too cool, the garlic has trouble forming bulbs.
Fertilize the area as soon as leaves emerge. Fertilize again 3 to 4 weeks later. Keep the soil evenly moist, not letting the soil dry out during active growth. Hardneck varieties will send up a center stiffer scape a few weeks before harvest. Clip these stalks after they have emerged and before they curl.
A garlic scape is the stiffer stalk that will produce a flower on hardneck garlic varieties. Although the flower will be undeveloped, it is edible. You can chop and cook the scape with soup, stews or baked meats. Garlic scapes taste garlicy with less bite to them than garlic cloves.
Harvest when it is dry, not raining, to reduce spread of any fungal problems. Dig up the bulbs when the plant’s bottom leaves have yellowed and there are only 5-6 green leaves remaining. Pull carefully from the soil, using a trowel or garden fork if needed. Shake off the soil gently as the heads will bruise easily. Your garlic will keep longer if dried & cured with its leaves and roots attached.
Drying and Curing
Place the garlic bulbs in a shady, well ventilated dry place without sunlight. If indoors, a room fan speeds the drying process. Keep where rain cannot get them wet, or hang in small bunches. Drying can take 3 to 8 weeks depending on the humidity of the area.
Netted sacks can be used for air ventilation in storage. The best air temperature is between 45-55 F. Cooler temps will make them sprout, so refrigerator storage is not recommended. Save the largest bulbs with the best form for planting the following fall. Avoid planting bulbs that have slivers or are one-sided.
Nootka Rose is the Softneck variety we carry at The Growing Place. You will get 15-24 cloves per bulb with this heirloom variety. Nootka Rose has a mild flavor and can be stored for 6 to 9 months. When growing, you will notice the Softneck garlic has no central stalk. Leaves will sprout directly from each clove, and soften before falling over as the garlic matures. The foliage can be braided to store.
We carry three varieties of Hardneck garlic.
German Red Medium – 10-12 cloves per bulb with a hot & spicy flavor and grows well in cold climates
Music – 4-7 cloves per bulb, with a multi-layered sweetness followed by pungent earthy warmth flavor, stores well
Duganski – 7-10 cloves per bulb, with a fiery flavor that mellows to a rich garlic aftertaste, good storage life
It’s a garlic filled weekend at The Growing Place with talks scheduled Saturday, October 9 in Naperville & Sunday, October 10 in Aurora. Visit and listen in for garlic selecting, planting, and harvesting advice at 11am & 1pm. At noon, Veronica Porter of Ask Aunt V will demonstrate some tasty and healthy recipes and techniques for cooking garlic. Free, with no registration required. See all October events at The Growing Place.