If you have ever wanted to try your hand at growing garlic now is the time to think about planting it. Garlic should be planted between Halloween and Thanksgiving and you will want to start with a good seed source from a reputable seed company. Garlic is a relative of the onion, shallot, and leek. Garlic and onion can be differentiated by their leaves — garlic leaves are flat while onion leaves are round and hollow. A head of garlic is composed of individual cloves enclosed in a papery bulb cover. Each clove is actually a small bulb; that bulb is a collection of unexpanded leaves.
Your soil should be a well-drained sandy loam with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Garlic needs 1 to 1.25 pounds of 19-19-19 fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed or 1.5 to 2 pounds of 12-12-12 fertilizer per 100 square feet of bed. Only apply ½ of this at planting and then apply the other half in the spring when growth resumes (you will see little green sprouts peeking out of the mulch.)
Once you have your soil worked up and fertilizer worked in you can start to plant your garlic. Garlic comes in bulbs. Depending on the type and variety, the bulbs can have anywhere from 5 – 16 cloves per bulb. There are two types of garlic hard neck and soft neck.
Hard neck garlic produces scapes and bulbils. The scapes can be used in culinary dishes and the bulbils can be used as seed. However it is best to remove the scapes so that your plant puts its energy into producing a nice big bulb instead of a seed head. Hard neck garlic produces fewer cloves but they are much larger and more uniform than soft neck varieties. Hard neck generally has a shorter storage life than soft necks do and they are adapted to cooler growing conditions.
Soft neck varieties generally do not form scapes and they have many cloves per bulb. Their skins are tighter and they generally have a longer storage life than hard neck varieties. Soft neck garlic grows better in warmer climates, has a flexible stalk for braiding and is most commonly used for commercial garlic production.
Separate the cloves from the bulb when you are ready to plant. Don’t worry about pealing the cloves, they will grow fine. Choose only the biggest nicest cloves for planting this will ensure that you get nice full bulbs. Dig a row 2 inches deep and place your clove basal plate (big end) down. If you look closely in the picture you can see the little roots starting to grow.
Space the cloves 4-5 inches apart and gently press them into the soil to keep them upright. Once your cloves are set out you can gently cover them up. If you are planting more than one row space your rows 12-24 inches apart. Once your cloves are covered with soil, 4 inches of mulch like clean straw or leaves should be added to the rows to protect the garlic for the winter and also to smother out any winter annual weeds.
Source: Carri Jagger, Ag Educator Morrow County