Many people want you to plant garlic two to three weeks after the first frost in autumn, but before winter arrives in earnest. This may work in many parts of the world but in Central Texas I have to plant my garlic in mid-October, the same time I plant my onions. This way, the garlic has time to develop roots – but not shoots — before temperatures get seriously cold. Garlic can tolerate severe cold, but too much top growth can put the plants in jeopardy. On the other hand, if you wait too long, the cloves won’t have time to produce a few healthy roots. If you live in a mild climate, you can wait until the end of the year, but as I said I plant mine as I plant my onions.
Break the cloves apart, but leave the papery outer skins intact. Plant good-sized, plump bulbs and discard the tiny ones, or toss them in a pot of soup or pasta sauce. Plant the garlic cloves upright, with the wide sides down. The cloves should be about 4 inches apart and 2 inches deep.
Work 1 to 2 teaspoons of organic general purpose or high-nitrogen fertilizer into the soil around the garlic if you must – I find that growing mine in richly composted soil is all that they really need. Alternatively, apply blood meal according to label recommendations.
Mulch the garlic bed with 4 to 6 inches of mulch if you live in a colder climate, or just lightly if winters are mild. Straw works well because it allows the soil to breath, but skip mulch altogether if you live in a rainy climate, as the cloves are likely to rot in soggy soil. One word of caution, if you are using straw or hay as a mulch be sure you know who grew it and what chemicals they may have sprayed on it or else you could unknowingly kill your crops!
Stop watering and let the soil dry for a few weeks. At this point, dry soil won’t hurt the garlic, but the bulbs will keep longer in storage.
As the tops brown lift the garlic with a garden fork or spade. Your tops may not go completely brown before they begin to die back. They may just turn yellow – usually mid-to-late summer, but that is the time to lift out your garlic.
Don’t wait too long, or the papery covering will break down and the garlic won’t keep anywhere near as long.
Read More about Garlic!
When you plant garlic this fall, plant a lot of it. The garlic lovers in your family will thank you!