This article first appeared in the September/October 2020 issue of Northern Gardener.
Plant garlic this fall and thank yourself later as you enjoy fresh pesto, quiches and other garlic-filled dishes next summer. Growing garlic is easy and fun. Plant the garlic cloves outside in October so roots can develop before the ground freezes, and then look for foliage early next spring.
- Garlic loves full sun and well-drained, slightly acidic soil.
- Find bulbs at a local nursery. Do not plant cloves from grocery-store garlic. The garlic varieties sold in stores may not be hardy in northern gardens. Some garlic bulbs may also have been treated with preservatives to extend their shelf-life in stores.
- Break apart the bulb to separate individual cloves, leaving the paper husk on each clove.
- Plant cloves 2 to 4 inches apart and 2 inches deep with the pointed end facing up. Choose the biggest, healthiest cloves since they will turn into larger, healthier bulbs next summer.
- Cover bulbs with a thick layer of straw during winter and remove the straw in the spring when threat of frost has passed.
- In the spring, cut off any flower shoots because they will decrease bulb size.
Harvest and Storage
The best part of growing garlic is harvest time! When the foliage begins to yellow at the top and fall over, it’s time to harvest. This usually happens in late June to August. Harvest a test bulb to make sure the cloves are plump and the bulbs are covered in a thick, dry paper. You will know it’s too early to harvest if the paper wrapping is thin and disintegrates. If you wait too long, bulbs can split apart. Instead of pulling bulbs, gently dig them up and brush off the soil. Avoid bruising the bulbs. Let bulbs dry in a cool, shady spot with good airflow for two weeks—for best air circulation, you can hang them upside down in bunches of four to six bulbs. When the roots and paper husk are dry, the bulbs are ready to be stored. Remove the tops and roots and store in a cool, dark, dry spot (not in a moist basement or refrigerator).
Save a few of your biggest, healthiest bulbs for planting next fall.
After you’ve achieve success growing garlic, try this recipe!
Herbed Garlic Butter with Feta and Lemon
(adapted from Our Best Bites)
8 tablespoons butter (not margarine), softened
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 Tablespoon fresh basil, minced
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh lemon zest
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Stir all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Spread on bread or toss with grilled vegetables, meat, seafood or pasta. To make delicious garlic bread, spread on baguette slices and toast until golden brown.
For more recipes, check out o