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Planting Garlic

I had heard stories about how the Garlic Capitl of the world, Gilroy, CA, smells like garlic for miles around, but I didn't get the scope of it until I drove through there this past spring.  I get it now. It's not exactly unleasant, and I'm pretty sure you would get used to it if you lived there, but wow, it was pervasive.  

When I got home, the garlic I had planted last fall was just poking up through the ground.  It grew and developed its 'scapes,' those curly-q stems that eventually will form the flower if you don't cut them off like I did.  I chopped them and threw them in a stir-fry, and wished I had more. I waited until about July to finally dig up my bulbs, and they were perfect. We eat a lot of garlic in our house, so the crop didn't last for long, so this year, I'm going to plant more. 

Planting garlic is really easy. You can plant enough for several months in a 10 square foot area, and all you need are some garlic bulbs from the market, though fancier garlic is available at garden centers. Break them apart into individual cloves, and plant them about eight inches apart in every direction, buying them about two inches down.  They may sprout this fall, and that's fine. Mulch the sprouts with eelgrass, pine needles or straw. In the spring, pull the mulch back to let the sprouts take off and let give your plants a good shot of organic fertilizer like fish emulsion. And that's it.  I always heard that you have to cut the scapes off, but I think that's hooey. I've left them on and had a good harvest. 

October 10th is the suggested time to plant garlic in our area, though here on Nantucket we have more leeway to plant later. While I don't want to compete with Gilroy, maybe we can get enough garlic planted this year to have our own garlic festival. Who's in?


I'm in, only bought 20lbs this year decided on german xtra hardy they have the largest bulbs. tried growing softneck but doesnt seem to do that well here. And w/the hardneck you also get the scapes...The hardest part to growing garlic is when to pick . If you wait too long they revert and break into cloves and are hard to pull out of ground. I think they have smaller bulbs if you dont cut the scape off since the plant puts all its energy into producing the flower and not a larger bulb.


Hilary can I plant garlic in the spring?



Hilary Newell's picture

Hi Linda, I've never tried it, but most sources I looked at suggest that you can, but the crop may not mature.  As of today (3/5), mine are sprouted up about 3-4 inches. Bulbs planted now probably won't begin to grow until the soil warms up more.  But if you try it, and I think you might, let me know how it tuns out!