Organic Seed Garlic FAQs

Growing great garlic starts with choosing quality seed of varieties appropriate for your site and your culinary needs. Garlic requires a cold, but not a frost, spell, plus a change in day-length, during its growing cycle to make a bulb. The most important factors in producing great garlic, after variety selection and seed quality, is good fertilization and good early weed control, up to about early May. Garlics are shallow-rooted so cannot handle excessive hoeing if weeds get out of control, and they don’t compete well. Mulching or diligent weeding out of young weeds is a must. In hot dry springs, adequate watering in May and June prior to harvest dry-down will maintain plant health and keep pests from invading and slowing down growth. We highly recommend a good, comprehensive soil test, beyond simply N-P-K, even for home gardeners. Organic amendments can be expensive and it’s a huge benefit to know what your soil actually needs. Fertilize correctly and you’ll be amazed at the difference in plant health, vigor and flavor!

Due to agricultural quarantine laws, we are unable to ship garlic and shallots to the following counties:

Idaho: Ada, Bingham, Blaine, Boise, Bonneville, Canyon, Cassia, Elmore, Gem, Gooding, Jefferson, Jerome, Lincoln, Madison, Minidoka, Owyhee, Payette, Power, Twin Falls, and Washington Counties.

Washington: Adams, Benton, Franklin, Grant and Klickitat.

We also do not ship garlic to HawaiiPuerto Rico, any US territories, or internationally.

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. Hardstem garlics will make a scape, which should be harvested and is also very tasty and another marketable crop. Turbans are the first to harvest, for early sales. Another consideration is rain and irrigation. Garlic can get by on minimal water but will not size up. If you have dry conditions and limited spring-early summer rain or irrigation, choose an early-maturing variety because it will size up better for you.

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.

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.

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 cold 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.

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 45-75. So for example, a variety with 60 cloves to the pound will plant 30 linear feet per pound.

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. Divide your bulbs, poke a hole in your bed deep enough to have the clove well-covered and plant out each individual clove with the root-end down. Smaller cloves can be planted several to a hole and harvested in spring as green garlic.

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.

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 until dry. Tops can be trimmed at harvest to 4”, especially on larger soft-stem bulbs, to facilitate internal drying. If possible, roots can be trimmed at the same time. Research is showing that the faster bulbs dry, the lower the incidence of bulb mites, molds and diseases damaging the crop in storage, so managing air flow and low humidity conditions with fans or dehumidifiers may improve quality. Open up a bulb to be sure that the inner wrappers are dry, then straight-cut tops to 1” and roots to 1/2″ and store in mesh bags, baskets or shallow racks. Store 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. Garlic can also be stored in the refrigerator but will sprout quickly when removed to room temperature.