While garlic is fairly easy to grow....Growing Big Garlic is a little harder. So we hope the information below will help you get fabulous garlic.
Soil preparation: Garlic will tolerate some shade but prefers full sun. While I've seen cloves sprout in gravel pits, garlic responds best in well-drained, rich, loamy soil amended with lots of organic matter. Raised beds are ideal, except in very dry regions.
Garlic does not tolerate weeds, so you need to heavily mulch in the fall when you plant, and keep up on weeding or you will not get good sized bulbs.
Do not plant garlic in same spot every year. Garlic takes so much out of soil that you MUST move it to another field, each year. I use a three area rotational system. After the garlic is planted I will cover crop with turnips,peas and or radishes. These cover crops, are then tilled back into the soil for the following years planting. What this does for your soil is amazing. It adds organic material which you must keep adding every year. It breaks up hard clay soils, and adds nitrogen back into your soil with out having to buy expensive fertilizers.
Planting & Spacing: To grow garlic, you plant the cloves, the sections of the bulb; each clove will produce a new bulb. The largest cloves generally yield the biggest bulbs, but good soil and natural fertilizers will also promote larger growth. Although Garlic can be planted in early spring, Fall planting is much better as it allows the plant longer growing times. Plant cloves with the fat end - root ball down. Plant each clove, pointy side up, root side down, 6 inches apart, I genearlly do rows of 8. That allows for me to get in on both sides and weed with no fear of smashing the plants.
Be sure the bottom of the bulb is at least two inches down. Lightly pack soil, and cover with a good 1 to 2 inches of straw or mulch. The straw helps keep moisture in the soil, insulates so they can grow in during winter in snowy regions, keeps them warm in colder climates and helps with Spring weeds. Garlic does not do well in heavy weeds. Its best to keep the weeds to a minimum.
Watering: Garlic needs about an inch of water each week during spring growth. If you have to augment rainfall with the garden hose, then water only to the point where the soil is dry. Garlic does not like soppy wet soil. We usually don't even water our garlic fields until mid to late June, depending in weather. When picking a spot to plant in your garden, pick a spot that will not get as much water as other water hog type plants.
Scape Sacrifice: By mid-summer, depending on your climate, your garlic will begin sprouting flowery tops that curl as they mature and ultimately straighten out into long spiky tendrils. These savory stalks, known as scapes, should be removed to encourage larger, more efficient bulb growth. Cut the scapes as close to where they come out of the plant. Scapes only grow on Hardneck varieties, so they will mot be found on the softnecks. Frest Scapes are wonderfull for frying, salads, dressings and a multitude of recipes. They are a milder version of the the spicy natural garlic flavor.
Fertilizing: A good natural fertilizer should be applied early in your plants growth, but not close to harvest time.
Harvesting Hints: When half to three-quarters of the leaves turn yellow-brown, typically in late July or early August (depending on the variety, your location and the weather), it's harvest time. Be Ready, Garlic waits for ni=o one. If its just for you then not to worry if you harvest a day or two after its ready. BUT IF you are growing for resale, leaving the garlic in the ground even one day past when its read can result in splitting and cracking of the your outer skins, This produces unsightly garlic for selling. So as your garlic approaches the 3/4 yellow leaf stage, check a bulb daily of each variety by harvesting one plant. Carefully dig up each bulb; do not pull, or you may break the stalk from the bulb, which can cause it to rot. Once it's harvested, get it out of the sun as soon as possible. Tie the garlic together in bundles of 6 to 10 bulbs (label them if you've grown more than one variety) and hang them to cure for about four to six weeks in a shaded, dry, and preferably drafty area.
When your garlic is thoroughly dry, trim the roots, taking care not to knock off the outer skin. Cut off the stalks about 1 inches above the bulb if you plan to keep the garlic in bags. We find, brown card board boxes, or burlap bags work well. DO NOT STORE in metal or plastic containers, this will cause bruising and rotting of your garlic. If you are going to store your garlic for many months, its best to keep them cool so a root cellar is ideal, but a brown bag in your refrigerator also works well. The most important thing about long term storage of garlic is to make sure its cured FIRST! BE SURE TO LET IT HANG for at least 4 weeks, or 6 is even better. Do not let your garlic freeze. It won’t last, so be sure your storage area is cool, dry, well ventilated. Ideal storage tempurature is around 45 to 50 degrees.
If you have any question on Planting, Growing or Storing your Garlic, feel free to call us. We are always happy to help. We thank you for your purchase, and hope you enjoy our unique Montana grown Garlic.
ALSO VERY IMPORTANT.....YOU must move change garlic fields/plots each year. Planting garlic in the same spot will result in smaller bulbs and proceed to get smaller and smaller each year you plant in that same spot. Garlic takes so much out of the soil, you'll want to alternate your fields.. I am always working on the next years field. What I mean is, I am tiling and adding organic matter to the next years field a year before its planted. I add pig manure and wood chips to the soil then I also plant turnips in my alternate field. Turnips are ideal as they put 40% nitrogen back into the soil, but peas or clover or a variety of cover crops will work. The main point here is that YOU SHOULD NEVER plant your garlic in the same field two years in a row. Or even in a small garden plot.
While your current years Garlc is growing work on the soil for where your fall garlic will be planted.
Thank you and I hope this was Informative and helpful.