Growing garlic

(Question)

Generally, how do you grow garlic and what should I do with the scapes?

(Answer)

The best time to plant garlic is in the fall about a month before the ground freezes. Break apart the garlic bulbs into cloves and plant the individual cloves with the pointed end up about 2 inches (5 cm) deep and about 4 inches (10 cm) apart. They prefer full sun but don’t like too much nitrogen in any fertilizer that you use.

You can fertilize when you plant and again when the tops are about 6 inches (15 cm) tall. Depending on where you live, the bed can be covered with an inch of mulch (straw or leaves) after planting and removed in the spring.

Around mid-June the plants produce flower heads, which should be removed after these have made one or two loops, if you want all the plant’s energy to go into producing a large bulb.  These scapes are tasty and can be used in your cooking.

If you want to use the bulbils that the scapes will eventually turn into (in order to propagate more garlic), leave them in place until harvest time and then dry them separately from the bulbs.

These will need to be replanted in the fall in order to develop into bulbs in successive years. The bulbils will often take several years to produce bulbs that are big enough to harvest and eat.

By the end of July, let the crop dry out and by late August, and when the leaf tops begin to dry and fall over the bulbs are ready to harvest the bulbs. Each clove that you planted in the previous fall will have produced a new bulb. Don’t leave them in the ground too long, or the bulbs’ skin will split and the crop will rot more easily.  Let the bulbs dry in the sun for a few days, turning them and cleaning off loose dirt. At this point they are ready for storage in a cool, dry, dark place.

You can of course repeat the whole process again next fall with some of the cloves that you harvest.