Planting Garlic

One of the crops I wanted to grow for next year is garlic.  I use a lot of it in my cooking, but until recently, I always bought the refrigerated pre-minced garlic in a jar.  I’ve come to know that fresh ingredients really do taste better, so I decided to plant my own.

Garlic is one of those things you plant in the fall.  Even then, it won’t be ready to harvest until next July!  I missed my window of opportunity last year, but I’m not making the same mistake twice.

I ordered some organic garlic heads from, but you can use any garlic bulbs that you like.

Garlic grows in bulbs beneath the ground. Each bulb is made up of individual cloves which vary in size and number depending on the variety and growing conditions. The cloves are in essence the garlic’s “seeds.” You separate the cloves, keeping the outer papery skin intact (if you can), and plant them with the pointy end up.


Cloves & bulb.

There are two kinds of garlic – hardneck and softneck.  As it grows, the garlic bulb puts up a shoot called the “neck.”  The hardneck varieties, oddly enough, put up a hard shoot that feels almost like a stick. Softneck garlic is the kind you see made into braids. It puts up little curly shoots called “scapes” that can be harvested separately from the garlic bulb and used in cooking. They are yummy. And until this year when we got them in our CSA, I had no idea they even existed!

I chose one variety of softneck (which is less cold hardy) and three varieties of hardneck.  One I’m particularly excited to try is called Music.  (We are a family of musicians, so that name just spoke to me.)  Here is what I’m planting:

  • Inchelium Red (soft)
  • Chesnok Red (hard)
  • German White (hard)
  • Music (hard)

This is how they arrived, bagged and tagged.  Strange that the “red” varieties were in the green bags.  Huh.


Bagged garlic.

I dug and prepared my beds a few weeks ago so I’d be ready to plant as soon as the weather cooperated. You’re supposed to plant garlic after the first light frost (which we had earlier this week), so I wanted to make sure I was ready. I made sure to add lots of organic matter to the beds because garlic is a heavy feeder.

Some people say you should soak your garlic overnight in a fish emulsion, but the instructions that came from seedsavers doesn’t say to do that, so I’m gladly skipping it!

I separated the cloves, chose the biggest ones, and set them out on top of the dirt so I could check my spacing.  I like to do it this way because they don’t have any part that sticks up above ground, and I’ll quickly lose track of where I’ve planted.  (The back of this bed is daffodil bulbs, so I didn’t want to get too close to the fence.)


Cloves ready to plant.

Cloves should be planted about 6” apart, although I’m not sure how particular they really are.  My friend Po planted garlic last year in a bed on the side of her house.  On a warm day in February, the kids next door decided to play tackle football and trampled all through her bed, kicking up many of the growing bulbs.  She just put them all back where they belonged, and the garlic was none the worse for wear.  I’m hoping that means mine can take a little abuse from Ding Dong.

I have no idea what to expect from the flavors.  I just chose them because the catalog descriptions sounded good!  I guess we’ll have one giant taste test next year.  But really, though.  It’s garlic!  How can it be bad?


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