Elephant garlic is related to common garlic, but the bulbs are much larger and have a milder flavor. The elephant garlic bulbs can be as large as 5 inches wide, containing cloves that are up to 2 inches long and 1 inch wide. The aboveground elephant garlic plants resemble leeks and have folded, broad leaves. Planting elephant garlic is nearly the same as planting regular garlic, but the spacing and planting depth of the cloves are slightly different.
Plant your elephant garlic in early spring, as soon as the soil is workable, to encourage proper foliage growth and bulb development. Select a planting site with crumbly, well-draining soil and full to partial sunlight.
Prepare the planting bed for your elephant garlic by removing all weeds, grasses and other debris. Loosen the soil to a depth of about 4 to 6 inches using a pitchfork or rototiller.
Spread a 1- to 2-inch layer of organic compost on top of the soil bed. Scatter on top of the soil 3 lbs. of 10-10-10 NPK (nitrogen-phosphorus-potassium) fertilizer granules per 100 square feet of planting space. Mix the compost and fertilizer into the soil to a depth of about 4 inches.
Separate the elephant garlic cloves to prepare them for planting, preferably within 24 hours of planting them into the ground. Plant the elephant garlic cloves 1 to 2 inches deep in the soil. Space the cloves 8 to 10 inches apart in rows that are 18 to 20 inches apart.
Water the elephant garlic twice each week to keep the soil evenly moistened at all times to a depth of about 6 inches. Spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of bark mulch around the elephant garlic plants after the aboveground growth emerges.
Pick off the flowers as they emerge, usually during hotter weather. Stop watering the elephant garlic in July or August, when the tops of the elephant garlic plants begin to dry out and you’re about two or three weeks before harvest time.
Things You Will Need
- Elephant garlic bulbs
- Pitchfork or rototiller
- Organic compost
- Granular 10-10-10 NPK fertilizer
- Garden hose
- Bark mulch
- You can also plant your elephant garlic in the fall instead of in the spring. If you're planting the cloves in the fall, be sure to time your planting so the roots have time to develop but the aboveground tops don't emerge before winter sets in. Spread a 4- to 6-inch-thick layer of mulch over the planting bed to protect the garlic bulbs from frost heaves and freezes.
- Dig up the elephant garlic bulbs to harvest them when the tops die back in late summer. Brush or rinse off the soil on the bulbs and dry them. You can tell when it's time to harvest your elephant garlic by looking for the lower leaves becoming mostly brown or when the plants are overall nearly half brown.
- If you dig up an elephant garlic bulb and find a round, solid bulb without clove segments, you'll need to replant the bulb the following spring for it to develop the cloves. Sometimes elephant garlic bulbs require two growing seasons to develop properly.