Growing Garlic Info
Garlic is one of the hottest crops in America these days, both among small farmers and backyard gardeners. This page contains information on every step along the way to a successfull crop of garlic.
How much garlic should I buy?
1-5 pounds of seed garlic will produce enough garlic for the culinary needs of most families. The amount of garlic that your seed will produce usually ranges between 4-12 times the amount that you plant. This ratio varies greatly between varieties. For example 1 pound of a productive "Artichoke" variety of seed garlic may produce 12 pounds in return. 1 pound of a productive "Porcelain" variety of seed garlic may produce 5 pounds in return. Our detailed descriptions of each variety includes information on yields. This information can be viewed on the pages for each variety in the menu to the left.
When you order, you will receive about 7-10 bulbs per pound of seed garlic ordered. Again, this depends on the variety. The number of cloves your bulbs contain will depend on the variety. A variety with many cloves, such as a "Artichoke" variety, will have more cloves in a pound then a variety with fewer cloves, such as a "Porcelain" variety.
We plant in raised beds with 6 rows per bed, 5 inches between rows. Plants are spaced 9 inches apart in each row. A good general rule is to plant each clove 5-9 inches apart, no matter how you lay out your rows or beds.
Here is an example of how to determine how much space your seed garlic will take up in your garden: You have 4 pounds of seed garlic that contain 160 plantable cloves. Your garden rows are 20 ft long. If you plant your cloves 6 inches apart in a row, you will need 4 rows of space.
If you order more seed garlic than you have room in your garden for, you can do what many customers do: Eat the small cloves!
Garlic is usually planted October-November in the north, and from November through January in the south. Northern growers should plant two to four weeks before the ground freezes in order to insure good root growth prior to winter.
Labeled cloves in Net Rope bags; ready to plant
Break bulbs apart into individual cloves within a few days of planting and plant the root end down, about two inches deep. Mulch immediately. Remember big cloves yield big plants and bulbs, while small cloves yield small plants and bulbs. Commercial growers do not use cloves that are significantly smaller than average.
Garlic likes rich, well-drained soil but will tolerate and adapt to many soil types. It is difficult to grow garlic without rot problems in tight or clay soils with poor drainage. Hardneck garlics are fussier about soil nutrients and texture than are softnecks.
In the spring when garlic plants are experiencing most of their vegetative growth, water like any garden green. Nitrogen is appreciated at this stage of growth. When days lengthen and the temperature climbs (mid-May for us) garlic is finished growing green leaves and is ready to direct energy to its bulb. Small weak plants at this stage will produce small bulbs no matter what you do.
Hardneck garlics send up a flower stalk in early June in northern climates and as early as March or April in warm climates. Before the stalk begins to turn woody, starts to uncoil, and begins to stand up straight, the stalk should be cut off 1/2 inch above the top plant leaf. This redirects the energy downward into the bulb.
Harvesting garlic. Bottom leaves have turned brown, 4-5 green leaves left on top.
As harvest approaches, plants begin to dry down from the lowest leaf up and from the leaf tips downward, one leaf at a time. We harvest when the top 4 leaves are still mostly green. Most gardeners use a spade, fork, or shovel to harvest their garlic crop. Depending on soil type and the variety of garlic, it is possible to simply harvest by pulling the garlic up while holding the plant close to the soil. Commerical growers or those with larger crops often use an undercutting bar attachment with a tractor (or horse). Bundle plants in groups of five to ten plants and hang out of direct sunlight and where there is good air circulation. Don’t leave freshly dug bulbs in direct sunlight for more than a few minutes or they may sunburn (literally cook). The plants and bulbs cure completely in 3 to 4 weeks in dry climates, but may need fans and heat sources in wet climates. Check clove wrappers inside bulb to make sure they are dry. When completely cured the neck may be cut about one-half inch above the bulb without any moisture being apparent. We trim the roots and necks to one-half inch length and store in netted onion bags or ventilated crates.
Garlic drying under cover. Flagging marks varieties.
Store your crop in a cool and dark place. Basements or heated garages are a good bet. Otherwise, a dark and cool part of the house will work. Never store garlic in a refrigerator as it will begin to sprout quickly. Most garlic stores well at room temperature. For long storage 45-55 degrees is optimal. Humidity between 50%-70% is preferred to slow dehydration.
Asiatic and Turbans are the shortest storing garlics. Rocamboles and Purple Stripes are medium (6 months). Porcelains and Artichoke types store 8 to 10 months. Silverskins and Creoles will often store a full year.