Planting garlic

Credit: Carolyn Herriot

October is the month for planting garlic. After hanging the bulbs in a warm dry place to cure for 6 weeks or so, they are cleaned and split into separate cloves. The largest cloves will grow into the largest bulbs. I use a dibber to plant the cloves 3” deep in moist soils.

Softneck garlic, Allium sativum, does not produce a flower spike and will store for a year after harvest. Storing garlic in a cool, dark place with ventilation provides the longest storage life. Hardneck garlic (Rocambole) Allium ophioscorodon, produces a flower spike and will store up to eight months. Elephant garlic, Allium ampeloprasum, is actually a perennial leek with a mild flavour. Its cloves split up when dried, so it does not store for long.

TIP: Garlic from the supermarket may have been fumigated with methyl bromide, an anti-sprouting chemical, so plant bulbs of certified organic seed garlic. Make sure the garlic is from a reputable grower and free from white rot, a fungal disease that can wipe out garlic harvests for years to come.

planting garlic
1. Chose a sunny, well-drained site. Garlic does not do well in soils lacking in organic matter so after weeding spread a layer of manure over it. We use aged horse manure. Practice crop rotation yearly to avoid problems with white rot.
rock dust
2. Sprinkle a mix of 50:50 wood ash (uncontaminated) and rock dust to aid in bulb formation and to remineralize the soil.
compost layer
3. Spread a layer of rotted compost over the site.

4. Plant individual cloves with the pointy end up, about three inches deep below the soil surface. Space cloves six inches apart in the row, and the rows six inches apart. If garlic is spaced too close or has competition from weeds, it results in smaller bulbs.

5. After planting all the cloves with the dibber, rake over the surface to cover the holes.

6. Mulching with straw cuts down on weeds and provides a layer of protection in cold winters. Doing this allows you to harvest garlic by pulling by hand rather than forking, which may injure the bulb.