The Garlic How-To

Garlic for optimists

One of the advantages of having “Do No Planting” days dictated by the Moon – I’ve automatically got time to do other things in support of the garden, like research what things look like while they grow, and learning how to tell when they’re done.

Since I have a lot of garlic with green showing aboveground, I figure that’s the best place to start.

Planting the Garlic:

Get seeds and sets to plant from local outlets like farmers’ markets and online shops, or grab a few cloves from garlic you buy at the grocery store.

Ideally, garlic gets planted in the Fall before first frost. Stick a clove of garlic in well-draining soil, about an inch deep and five inches apart, in an area that gets full sun. The root edge should go down (the pointy bit is where the stem comes out – so point that up). As soon as they show a bit of green, put down a layer of straw mulch.  Some sources I looked at said to plant with the bulbous side down.

At four weeks into Spring, you’ll see shoots. Pull back the mulch and fertilize with a good mixed fish emulsion. Check moisture down to two inches, and water only if dry that far down.

Planted 4/24 but big head start, this is the one Chatterbox attacked

If you were to dig up a clove, you’ll see a bunch of stringy roots about four inches long and a bit tangled. From what I can tell, you’d see about an inch of root growth per week. Once you see green above the soil line, you can expect to see about a half inch of growth per day.

As you get growth , if you want to pull off and preserve the topsets for next year’s planting, do so when the plant has matured. However, if you want to cook with the scapes, harvest those when they’re between four and five inches long. At that length they’re delicious; much bigger and not so much.

Harvesting the Garlic:

When the lower leaves are browned and the upper leaves are green, it’s time to harvest. Grab a digging fork and GENTLY loosen the soil and lift the bulbs. Bring up the entire plant, and leave that attached as you place carefully into flats.

Curing the Garlic:

Lay the whole plants out to dry in a single layer. Once the outer skin is papery, brush off the dirt (don’t rinse), and snip the roots off.


Store between 60 and 70 degrees F, but avoid cold storage as you will get sprouting. Store open, not enclosed in bags. Make sure it’s light but not bright – cool but not cold.

In Conclusion:

It takes a bit to get the hang of the growing cycle, and resist the temptation to wash these guys right out of the ground. If you cure and store your garlic properly, you’ll have enough to last you well through to the next growing season.