Garlic is one of the easiest garden plants to grow. With a little prep work your garden can easily grow as much garlic as you need for the entire year. If you are a garlic lover, then rejoice because here in Sacramento it is garlic planting time.
How to prepare your garden for garlic
Garlic requires two things. It requires full sun and good soil. What is good soil? Good soil is really a random term that means many different things depending on what plant you are talking about at the time. For garlic, good soil means that there should be a lot of organic matter in the soil. The soil should also be well drained, soft/loamy and dark in color.
Adding organic material to your soil is as simple as digging in some compost. There are plenty of organic choices available locally for anyone who needs to amend their garden soil. This includes organic compost, which is available in bags from most local nurseries.
Garlic is also one of those plants that does well in the ground or in raised beds. Unless your soil has been tested for heavy metals and pesticides, raised beds should be your first choice.
Garlic that is planted in the garden is referred to as seed garlic, and it can be found at any organic section of a supermarket, whole foods, or even at the co-op. All of the nurseries should also have plenty of seed garlic available too. If you are looking for specific strains of garlic then your best bet is to check with the online nurseries such as Nicholes.com.
Once your soil is prepared, and you have your seed garlic, all that you need to do is to separate the cloves from the bulb of garlic. Typically, the largest bulbs are planted as those will produce the largest cloves of garlic. The smaller cloves can be used at home or added to the compost heap.
Each clove should be planted about 21/2 inches deep and six inches apart in a well mounded row. The root end which is tapered flat goes down and the point of the clove faced upwards. The tip of the clove should rest about 2 inches beneath the soil. Once your garlic is all planted, fill in the holes with loose soil. Because garlic is a root crop it does great when there is a layer of mulch over the row. Mulch can be anything organic such as straw or even those leaves that you rake off your lawn. The goal is to have about 6 inches of mulch. This will help to keep the soil a little warmer during the colder fall and winters months.
Care of your garlic crop
Like most root crops, garlic should be watered consistently. The best scenario is to provide about 1 inch of water per week for your garlic from mid January through June. During the winter months water every two weeks if there has been no rain. In the spring when the growth rate of garlic excellerates. During the winter months many garden plants slow down their growth. Garlic is no exception to this rule.
Most gardeners stop watering their garlic around the first of June. This allows the garlic to ramp up its growth and begin the dying back process. Since garlic is spread by cloves it is a natural part of the plants cycle to harden and set itself.
Garlic is ready to be harvested when the majority (50% or more) of leaves start to yellow and die back. If your garlic begins to produce flowers, simply snip them off. This will allow the garlic to concentrate on producing larger cloves.
Garlic is dug and never pulled up. The stalk is very important during the curing process for garlic. Once the bulbs have been dug, brush off any large clumps of dirt, leave the stems attached and lie the garlic flat in a cool semi-dark area. Turn the garlic plants once per day. In a few days the garlic should be dry and the stalks brittle.
To clean garlic, snip off the stalk and cut off the roots, but do not expose the cloves or they will rot. Roll the garlic bulb around in your hands an the outer layer of skin will fall off leaving a nice, white, clean bulb of garlic. Store garlic in a cool dry place out of direct sunlight.