Garlic Frequently Asked Questions
• What varieties of garlic will grow best on my site? Most varieties of garlic will grow well on a wide range of sites, but as a general rule, softstems do better in more moderate and warm conditions and hardstems do better in colder conditions. Creoles do best in warmer, more southerly locations. Another consideration is rain and irrigation. Garlic can get by on minimal water but will not size up. If you have limited spring-early summer rain or irrigation, choose an early-maturing variety because it will size up better for you.
• How much garlic will my planting produce? Each garlic clove will produce a bulb of garlic, so if a variety has 8 cloves per bulb, you will get a yield of 8 times, in good growing conditions.
• When should I plant my garlic? Garlic is typically planted from early October to December in the North, and from November to early January in the South. Cold climate growers should plant 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes to ensure good rooting to prevent frost heaving. Some southern growers also plant early to ensure the garlic is ready for harvest before the summer heat sets in.
• How should I prepare my soil for garlic? Garlic needs loose, well-drained soil to prevent rot and mold. Adequate sulfur, as shown on a soil test and supplemented with mineral as needed, will give more pungent, better-storing garlic. Rich soil and adequate irrigation will produce the best yields but garlic will grow in lesser conditions as well. Care in the timing of Nitrogen applications is important. Witches-brooming is believed to be caused by heavy manuring or extended periods of high soil N levels during the short days of winter. It is better to add no more than 75 lbs. N at fall planting, and side-dress in late winter/early spring as the days warm up and growth continues.
• How much garlic seed will I need? To calculate the quantity of seed you’ll need to plant an area, you’ll need to calculate the number of linear feet in your space, multiply that by 2 (for a 6″ spacing), and that’s how many cloves you’ll need. There is variation between types as to clove count per pound, but the range is 45-80.
• What spacing should I put my garlic seed out at? Most varieties will grow well on a 6″ spacing in the row, and at least 6″ between rows, depending on cultivation methods. Closer row spacing will require more soil fertility and more hand weeding. When planning your garlic plot keep in mind how you will keep it clean of weeds, and lay out your planting accordingly.
• When will my garlic be ready to harvest? Garlic is typically ready to harvest between late May and late July, depending on variety, location and growing conditions in a particular season. When lower leaves begin to brown, stop watering to facilitate drying down. Harvest when all but the top several leaves are dry.
• How should I harvest and dry my garlic? Dig with a spade, fork or root lifter, shake excess dirt clumps off and hang in bundles, or stand in shocks or spread out on a screen in a shaded space for 4-6 weeks until dry. Open up a bulb to be sure that the inner wrappers are dry. Once the garlic is dry you can cut tops and roots to 1/2″ and store in mesh bags, baskets or shallow racks.
• How should I store my garlic? Store your garlic in a cool, dry location, such as a barn, garage or back room. Garlic prefers to have a stable temperature and humidity as fluctuation will produce condensation and cause rot or sprouting. Ideally, the combination of temperature plus humidity should equal 100, ie. 60 degrees at 40% humidity.