Planting: Garlic prefers a loamy soil with a ph in the range of 6.2 and 7. To improve the quality of your soil you can work in compost, aged manure, well-rotted straw or peat moss. Prepare your soil to a depth of approximately 12 inches. Separate the cloves from the bulbs leaving the peels on. Set aside any that are very small and use those for eating. If any are soft or appear to be rotting cull those cloves out. In your home garden you will want to space about 6 inches between plants. This will provide adequate room for bulb development. Plant the cloves of garlic pointy end up, and 1-3 inches deep depending on your planting zone. In colder more Northern areas plant at the deeper range. Mulch garlic with straw. This prevents frost heave and keeps the weeds to a minimum come Spring. If your blanket of mulch is heavy, you may need to brush it away some to allow a struggling shoot to come thru come Spring.

Harvest: As the garlic plants mature, the lower leaves begin to turn brown, shrivel up, and fall off the plant one by one. Plan for harvest when 5-6 green leaves remain. Each green leaf represents a wrapper or skin you’ll have on the cured bulb. To test bulb size prior to harvesting you can push aside the soil around a few bulbs to assess bulb development and size. You will also be able to see if the bulb has clove divisions which signal bulb maturity. If left too long in the ground with the green leaves continuing to shrivel, the garlic wrappers are lost and the bulbs will open allowing for dirt and potential disease and pest to enter the bulb. If that happens, just use up those cloves first because they won’t last as long in storage.

Curing: Although you can enjoy the fresh garlic immediately after harvest–and it has a great juicy texture that lasts only for two or three weeks–Most garlic needs a chance to dry out for storage. That drying process is called curing. Give the freshly harvested garlic good ventilation and low humidity during the curing process. Leave the stalks on and hang the garlic to dry for 3-4 weeks. The curing process allows the wrappers and the skin around the cloves and the cloves themselves to all dry at about the same rate so the cloves are tightly protected and healthy for the longest possible shelf life. When the garlic has finished curing you can trim the stalks for storage. Storage is best in a cool dry environment away from direct sunlight.