Growing Garlic

Growing Garlic is all about timing

Garlic is fun to grow, it’s all about timing.

Garlic is kind of in a class by itself. The whole secret to growing garlic is timing. And for years and years, I would plant garlic in the spring. It never behaved properly. It never made a nice bulb. We just had failure after failure until one day I thought, “Why don’t you do it like it says to do it. Follow the directions.”

It seems I’ve had to learn most of my lessons the hard way . . . by failures. Hopefully I can help you not to fail at the same things I’ve failed at. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes.

Garlic is all about timing. You plant garlic in the fall. The end of September in my area (zone 5) is a good time.

Planting Garlic

You separate the cloves on the day that you are going to plant. Don’t separate the garlic cloves two or three days ahead or two weeks ahead; they start to shrivel if you do that. The day you know you are goin to plant them, separate the cloves and plant them.

When you plant garlic, we have found that eight inches apart each way is best. That gives you nice big bulbs. Make sure you plant them root down. It’s sometimes hard to tell. The pointy end goes up; the flat end goes down.

The garlic is going to grow during the cool weather of Fall. The top will only get about two inches tall. But what is important is what’s going on under the ground. It’s sending out lots of roots, and the young garlic plants continues to send out roots all through the winter, especially if you have an insulating layer of snow.

Some directions will tell you to cover the garlic in mulch like loose hay or leaves, and that is not a bad idea. But you will have to be sure to move that aside in the Spring when it begins to resume growth.

So, let’s say your garlic got a good start all winter. In early March it starts to grow again. It will grow really fast. It will get probably two feet tall. The reason garlic grows so fast in the Spring is because it has all this root system. It will be ready to harvest around the end of June. Where I live, in zone 5, we try to harvest it just before the 4th of July.

Harvesting Garlic

I have a little picture here.

There are approximately 9 leaves on a garlic plant, and the color of the leaves will tell you when it is time to harvest garlic. When the garlic begins to turn yellow, you know it is getting close. When five of the nine leaves on galic plant turn yellow, it is time to dig them. They don’t have to be yellow all the way to the base of the plant, but they do have to be yellow at least half-way in. That’s when you should dig your garlic.

Keep an eye on your garlic, back off on your watering just a little bit. Let it dry out a little bit. If you leave the garlic in the ground too long, the cloves get too big for their skins, and the skins split. Then dirt gets inside the layers. It’s just not as beautiful, although it is still useable. It also doesn’t store as well if the dirt gets in among the cloves.

So, you want to harvest the garlic when there are four or five leaves on each plant.

In my video you can see my garlic patch which we planted in the end of September. In Novemer, it looks like there is not much there; you can see a lot of growth in the last couple of weeks. But what’s happening is that the roots underneath are just huge. If I dug these plants up, I would probably have a shovel full of roots. The reason we plant the garlic in September is so the roots can grow all through the late Fall and into the early Spring.

And then when the weather warms up, the tops grow. They just expand and leaf out. And then they will be ready to harvest by the end of June or by the first of July.

In my video I then show you two varieties of garlic in Spring in the middle of May. You can tell that one variety does not look quite as good as the other at this point, but in about five or six weeks, they will be ready to be harvested, around the end of June.

I love to plant and harvest my own garlic. The flavor is intense. But more importantly I can choose the variety that best fits my season, my soil, and my growing conditions.

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