Order your garlic in July and August to get the best varieties. Due to the popularity of growing garlic, most growers sell out of their best types by the end of summer. There are two types of garlic: Rocambole (stiff neck) is my personal favorite as the flavors are more complex and vivid. The other type of garlic is the Soft Neck which is what you usually find in the grocery store. The flavors of soft necks are pretty simple with less heat than stiff neck types. You can also grow “Elephant Garlic” which is not truly a garlic, but rather a type of leek.
Garlic is best planted in early to mid-October. Plant individual cloves about 3-4 inches apart and 1 inch deep. Make sure you plant the cloves with the pointed side up and the root side down so they can grow properly. Water them well and in a few weeks you will see the small tops of the plants poking above the soil. They will only grow about an inch or so above the ground during the winter. There is no need to cover them or protect them in any way as they are very cold tolerant.
The following March, you’ll want to sprinkle some balance fertilizer and/or corn gluten meal on them to feed the plants. The corn gluten meal will help to keep the weeds down a bit as well. Keep them weeded and watered once a week andwatch them grow all spring long.
In May, they will start to produce flowering stalks or “scapes.” Cut these scapes off as soon as they appear an use them for some delicious dishes. We like to roast them, saute them, or turn them into pesto. Removing the scapes not only provides for lots of yummy meals, it allows the plant to put more energy into making larger bulbs.
Depending on the weather, at some point in June the outside leaves will start to yellow signalling the time to harvest. Gently pull the garlic at an angle out of the soil or use a garden fork or shovel to dig them out of the ground. Garlic roots hang onto the soil tightly and it takes a bit of work to get them out of the ground.
Tie them in bundles, or braid them if you’re fancy like that and then hang them in an airy, warm, and shaded area like a garden shed or garage. Let them cure and dry for a few weeks before removing the stalk and storing them in a dark and cool area such as your basement.
Eat about 2/3 of your harvested bulbs and save the other 1/3 to plant again in October. You’ll have a supply of plenty of garlic all summer and winter and enough left to keep growing year after year after year!