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Tom ThrogmortonTom Throgmorton explains the best ways to plant, grow, and harvest one of his favorite vegetables: garlic.


Tom can be reached at [email protected].



In our region, garlic planted in the autumn is ready for harvest the following July.  Like spring flowering bulbs garlic sets roots and start to grow in the warm autumn soil.  As the soil cools the growth stops.  But the plant is ready to start growing as soon as the soil warms up in the spring.

Use larger bulbs for seed garlic.  Crack the bulbs and plant the individual cloves.  Some hardneck varieties may only have six or eight cloves per bulb.  Softneck varieties may have twelve or more cloves.  Keep the papery skin on the cloves to protect them at planting.

Plant garlic cloves about six inches apart.  We planted a double row.  The rows were six inches apart and the cloves were planted about six inches apart in the rows.  That gives us room to cultivate so weeds don’t take over.

We planted the cloves a couple of inches deep.  Some folks like to plant deeper in our area.  We planted a little shallower but mulched the garlic beds once the soil froze.  The compost holds in moisture and prevents the freeze thaw cycle.

Garlic is a heavy feeder and likes nitrogen fertilizer.  The compost will add some nutrients but we’ll need to add more.  Fish emulsion is a natural source of nitrogen.  We also use Alpha One organic fertilizer.  Garlic likes even moisture, not too wet and not too dry.

Softneck garlic is ready for harvest when the first few leaves start to turn brown and become dry.  That is usually in early July.  Softneck varieties are the best for braiding.

Hardneck garlic is ready when the stiff leaves or scapes become straight.  We cut most of the scapes in June.  The scapes have become a delicacy for stir frying or a pesto base.  As the garlic becomes ready to harvest the scapes stiffen.

Knock off any loose soil and dry the garlic.  Keep it in a ventilated room out of the direct sun.  In a couple of weeks the skin will become papery and protects the bulb.  Softneck varieties keep longer than the hardneck types.

Enjoy the flavor.  I don’t think I can cook a meal without garlic.