Although now is the time of year that we want to throw in the trowel and wash our dirty hands one final time, there’s still more to be done in the garden. At least if you want to grow your own garlic. Planting this late seems crazy, but this is key in how to grow garlic successfully.
If you live in a locale that has an actual winter, getting your garlic in the ground before the onset of the cold weather is crucial for a good harvest the following summer.
Homegrown Garlic is Way More Delicious
As with just about everything else, the garlic that you harvest from your backyard is significantly better than what you’d find in your local grocery store.
Most of what’s in the store probably came from California. The majority has probably been in storage for at least weeks, and often months. Most is also probably one of only a couple varieties. All this means that if I live in Ohio, the quality of garlic available for my purchase (outside of a local farmer’s market) is less than ideal.
So if you can learn how to grow garlic (spoiler: it’s really easy), you too can have fresh, delicious garlic. And if you’ve never had the juicy, fragrant experience that is fresh garlic, you’re missing out.
How to Grow Garlic – Plant Now for Next Year’s Harvest
Timing is everything with planting garlic.
Garlic takes advantage of the last couple months of the year before the ground is frozen. It will set roots to get established, then take a brief nap during the worst of winter.
When the ground starts to warm in the spring, the garlic picks up where it left off in the fall and starts to grow with reckless abandon. Come late-June or July, the cloves are fully formed, the leaves die back, and it’s ready to be dug.
But let’s rewind and look at how to grow garlic from the beginning.
A bulb of garlic consists of a number of cloves (of course, you know this if you cook with it). A single clove gets planted, sprouts, and will eventually grow into another bulb with its multiple cloves.
Planting should occur at least a month before the last hard frost date. If you live in an area that doesn’t get hard frost, then sometime around February should work. For us in Ohio, this usually means mid-September through October. In years when I’m especially lazy, I’ve planted well into November with no problems the following year (although I can’t make any promises). As long as the ground remains unfrozen for at least a few weeks, the cloves should have time to sprout.
Start with a good bulb (or bulbs) of garlic. Don’t plant anything from the store, because it’s likely either old or treated to prevent it from sprouting (or both). Buy something from a reputable seed company, or pick something up from a farmer’s market.
Separate the cloves, but leave the papery skin intact. We’re not cooking it.
Dig holes 4-6 inches apart and about two inches deep, and place a clove pointy side up in each hole. (The root end is wider and flat.) Cover each hole. You can also mulch with a layer of straw, but I usually don’t and have never had any issues.
Come spring, the sprouts will take off.
Garlic can get moody about competition, so keep it well-watered and weeded. Certain varieties (hardneck) will grow scapes, which you may or may not opt to remove. I usually pick some and leave some.
Later in the summer, as the greens start to yellow and die back, your garlic should be ready for harvest! Once you know how to grow garlic (and how easy it is) and experience fresh garlic, it’ll be tough to go back.