How To Plant Garlic From A Clove

Here’s how to plant garlic for a bountiful harvest next year.

How to Plant Garlic from a Clove
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If you've never planted garlic in your garden, you're missing out! Garlic (Allium sativum) has been cultivated for centuries and is one of the easiest crops to grow. It's not finicky, has few pests and diseases, and rabbits and deer tend to ignore it. Just plant your garlic in the fall, then wait until early summer to harvest.

Garlic is divided into two main types: softneck and hardneck, which has a stiff stem, or scape, that grows up through the center of the bulb. The scape, which also is edible, is harvested in the spring before the bulb is ready and has a mild garlic flavor. Overall, softneck is the type that does better in the South.

When Should I Plant Garlic?

Garlic requires 6 to 8 weeks of cool weather (below 40 degrees F) to develop properly. That means you need to get it in the ground sometime from early October to early December, depending on where you live. In general, it's better to plant later rather than too early.

How To Plant Garlic from a Clove

Garlic doesn't like to stay soggy. It does great in well-draining sandy or loamy soils, but it can grow in clay, too, if you amend it with organic matter such as compost. You also can grow garlic in containers at least a foot deep, but the bulbs will be small.

Choose a spot in the garden in full sun, which is 6 or more hours of direct sunlight. Make sure it's a place that won't be disturbed because garlic takes up to 8 months to mature. Dig a hole about 4 to 6 inches deep (shallower for warmer parts of the south, deeper for colder regions). Gently break apart the bulb and separate into segments right before you plant, keeping the papery coverings intact on each clove.

Place each clove in the hole with the pointy-side up, then cover with soil, spacing about 6 to 8 inches apart. Water well after planting, and mulch to protect the bulbs from cold, retain moisture and keep down weeds. Don't worry if your garlic sprouts after planting; it won't affect performance. In the spring, feed with a balanced fertilizer, and water occasionally if it's extra-dry.

Can I plant Garlic from the Grocery Store?

It's not recommended because most garlic from the supermarket has been treated to inhibit sprouting. It's also often not a variety suited for southern regions. Don't waste your time and energy; instead purchase "seed stock" from reputable growers, such as Johnny's Selected Seeds, Filaree Farm, or Keene Garlic.

What are the Best Types of Garlic To Plant in the South?

Overall, softneck garlic such as Inchelium Red, Italian Early or Late, and California Early are most adaptable for Southern gardens. However, if you're USDA Hardiness zones 7 or colder (find your zone here), you also can try hardneck types such as Chesnok Red, German White and Music.

How To Harvest and Store Garlic

Garlic is ready sometime from late May to early July, depending on where you live and when you planted. If you planted a hardneck type, cut off the scape as it begins to curl under so the plant puts its energy into developing a larger bulb. Then watch your plants for clues: When about half of the foliage has died back and is flopping over, you can harvest the bulbs.

Lift the bulbs with a garden fork or spade, shake off dirt and let the bulbs "cure" out of direct sunlight for several weeks to increase storage life. When dry, cut off the leaves at the neck area. Or when still pliable, weave the stems of 8 to 10 heads together into a braid.

Store garlic in a dark, cool place, such as a pantry or closet, and it will last about 6 months. Don't forget to save a few of the best bulbs for planting next year!

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