Garlic is perhaps my favorite crop to grow because its timeline is opposite of most of the rest of the crops that we grow. It is planted in October, overwinters in the ground, sprouts up in very early spring and gets harvested in early July. Garlic levels out some of the workload in the spring by not needing too much of our time. Then when the busy planting season is winding down in early summer, it's time to harvest and cure the garlic.
To plant, begin by separating each bulb into cloves. Each clove will grow into a completely formed bulb. Cloves are planted about 4 inches deep and about 4-5 inches apart in a row. Each row is about 10 inches apart so that we can get the wheel hoe between the rows for weed control. We find it easier to dig a shallow trench, line the bulbs up in the trench and then backfill with soil. Then after the ground freezes, we apply a thick layer of straw mulch to the entire bed. Mulching after the ground freezes helps lessen the freeze-thaw cycle of the soil that may cause heaving of the bulbs.
Once you see the first leaves emerging in very early spring, it's time to begin some fertilization. We side dress with an organic granular fertilizer from HyrBrix.
Keep up with weeds in the bed, garlic doesn't like to compete and you'll have bigger bulbs if you keep a weed-free bed.
Hardneck garlic will send up a flower shoot called a scape in early June. We remove the scape, which sends more every to the bulb growing underground. This usually results in bigger bulbs.
It's time to harvest garlic when approximately half of the leaves have turned completely brown. Dig the bulbs by hand using a garden fork, being careful to dig 6 inches or so away from the plant to avoid damaging the bulbs. Shake the excess soil from the plants, then lay the entire plant in a dry shady spot with plenty of air flow. Allow the plants to complete dry out and the bulbs to cure, which takes about 3 weeks. Once cured, trim the stalks about 2 inches above the bulb. The bulbs can now be stored for several months in a cool, dry and dark location. Save the largest bulbs to be planted the following fall for next year's garlic crop.