Plant cloves 1 to 2 inches deep, 4 to 5 inches apart, rows 15 to 18 inches apart. Orient the growing point’s narrow tip up.
Plant in full sun into well-drained soil amended with compost. If soil is not amended with compost, apply three pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 foot rows. Ten foot rows would require 0.3 pounds (4.8 ounces) per row. Mulch with straw to prevent frost heaving. Keep evenly moist.
If a stand of garlic is desired instead of rows, gardeners can plant bulbs 5 inches apart in all directions. If a harvest of green garlic is desired in the early spring, plant cloves closer together.
In spring, growth resumes. Scapes (flowers) are formed and should be harvested to facilitate large bulb growth later in the summer. Many gardeners use scapes to make pesto, or to add to salads and other dishes calling for a mild garlic flavor. If you spaced your garlic cloves closer together, harvest “green garlic” in the spring to make room for 5-inch plant spacing. Green garlic is similar to an onion, with a mild garlic flavor.
Dig up garlic bulbs with a potato fork and shake off excess soil. Do not over-clean to avoid damage. Garlic bulbs can be eaten fresh or be cured for storage. Curing garlic should be done in a well-ventilated structure out of the direct sun. Leave the stems and leaves attached to the dry bulb. The stems and roots can be trimmed and excess dirt can be removed after curing. The curing process takes between four and six weeks. Cured or fresh, store your garlic bulbs in a cool dry place. Garlic can be kept for several months in mesh or paper bags in a ventilated area with cool temperatures, such as some barns or basements. All garlic varieties taste similar at harvest time, but after curing and a few weeks of storage, individual variety flavors will come out.
Allsup is the University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator.
For the holidays: Get inspiring home and gift ideas – sign up now!