Garlic is native to the Mediterranean area and Asia. It was held in high esteem by the Romans, who fed it to soldiers to give them courage and strength. The Egyptians fed it to their slaves who were building the pyramids. Garlic is used in cooking and works well with almost any meat or vegetable. It is even good baked and eaten alone. Garlic is said to help all kinds of conditions from the common cold to heart problems.
When to Plant
Garlic needs to be planted in the fall in order to harvest it in the spring. It should be planted in cold climates in mid-October. This will give it enough time to establish a root system before winter sets in and makes the bulbs go dormant. Garlic needs a cold period in order for germination to be activated.
Where to Plant
Plant your garlic in full sun where the soil is well drained. If the bulb sits in water it will rot. Garlic will tolerate partial sun, but it will not grow as fast or as large. Garlic can be grown in the vegetable garden or in the flower garden. It grows well next to roses and will keep aphids away from the roses.
Preparation for Planting
Dig the soil up and make it loose and airy. Mix the soil with some compost and peat moss to a depth of 6 inches. Garlic likes sand in the soil as well, so mix in some garden sand--about 1 cup per square yard.
Do not plant an entire bulb of garlic. A bulb is composed of many cloves. Take the papery skin off the bulb to expose the cloves and then remove them one by one. Leave the skin on each clove. Use the cloves that are on the outside of the bulb because they are the largest and best developed. Plant each clove upright, with the pointed end up, about 2 inches deep and 4 inches apart.
Use a general all-purpose fertilizer in late March and again in mid-May. Make sure weeds are kept at bay and water during dry conditions. Sprouts should appear in April and leaves should grow to a few feet in height. Flowers will bloom and should be left on the plants.
Once the flower cluster is spent and the leaves turn yellowish brown in mid-August, garlic is almost ready to pick. When the leaves fall over, use a trowel to loosen the soil around a bulb. Pull it up and check to see how many papery layers surround the bulb. If there are three layers, it is time to harvest. If there are four or more, wait two weeks and check again. Be careful not to bruise or cut the cloves with the trowel, because they will spoil quickly.
After picking, wash the cloves and hang them to dry in a warm, well ventilated place. The temperature needs to be around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The cloves should last about three to four months.