Growing garlic is not difficult and is so rewarding. It is exciting to see it come up in the spring, push out those yummy scapes (a delicacy in themselves) in June and provide us with a crop in July
First you need seed. The individual garlic cloves that make up the bulb are the seeds. Only plant the biggest and best cloves to get the biggest and best bulbs next summer. Eat the other ones. You can purchase seed garlic from garden stores that sell flowering bulbs, at farmer’s markets and garlic festivals. Yes, festivals! Grocery store garlic has usually been sprayed with an anti-sprouting agent. Organic garlic from there is probably OK but why waste your energy on that when large, specifically seed garlic with unique qualities is readily available. I look for garlic that is easy to peel and contains 4-6 large cloves.
You should wait until November to plant garlic so that it doesn’t sprout too soon. Garlic prefers full sun, soil enriched with good compost and good drainage. The soil should be easy to dig. Plant each individual clove about 5 inches deep and 6-8 inches apart. Give them plenty of room to grow. Supplement with nitrogen at planting (blood meal is a good organic source) and a few times before scapes appear. Potassium increases the size of the bulbs, so be sure there is a supply of that too. You can get the soil tested to find out if you need it or not. Testing instructions are available at the library and the Extension Service. Add a 3-5 inch layer of mulch to moderate soil temps and minimize heaving. Use something lightweight like straw or shredded leaves.
When the gardening season is over is a good time to do some maintenance on your tools. Clean, sharpen, oil…Organize your potting area and you’ll be ready for spring.