How to Plant Garlic



As market farmers, we have grown garlic for many years. This month we’ll be planting about 150 pounds of it. As the owners of Seeds from Italy, we also sell garlic for planting. With so much garlic experience, we often are asked for growing advice. Here is our FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) about planting garlic:  

When should I plant garlic? 

Garlic requires a cold treatment to do well, and the biggest, most robust bulbs are produced from a fall planting. Besides, that’s the only time planting stock is readily available. So if you haven’t already ordered your garlic, do it now! Your goal should be to plant within two weeks of the first frost (32°F) so that the cloves develop roots but do not emerge above ground by the time of the first hard freeze (28°F).

How much should I plant? 

That depends on how much garlic you eat. The rule of thumb is that every pound of garlic will produce between four and eight pounds. Buy seed garlic by the pound, not by quantity, because garlic weights vary significantly. We sell an Early Italian White variety similar to what you see in the grocery store that has 10-12 bulbs per pound; we also sell Viola Francese, a huge softneck from Italy that has only four bulbs per pound.

What variety should I grow? 

Garlics fall into two main categories, hardnecks and softnecks. Hardnecks have a small number of large cloves arranged around a central stem. We offer a beautiful one called Rossa (Red) di Sulmona. The cloves are easy to peel and the taste is more assertive. Softnecks have lots of small cloves arranged in layers like an artichoke. Softneck cloves are harder to peel and have a milder flavor. Softnecks store better than hardnecks.

In general, hardnecks are better for cold winters and softnecks are better for mild winters. But that is really a gross generalization and the fact is that garlic is very adaptable. You may be able to grow both types, which would give you an ideal combination of flavors and storage life. Ask your gardening friends what varieties they grow for starter recommendations, but don’t be afraid to try something unfamiliar. You’ll find there are literally hundreds of named varieties, but recent DNA analysis shows there are really only 10 distinct types. They can behave quite differently based on growing conditions. Here’s an article I wrote for Growing for Market about this research a couple of years ago. 

Julia Stella
4/7/2012 12:36:01 AM

This what I do to my garlic and it comes out pretty good

N Grossi
11/19/2011 5:37:49 PM

Why, exactly, do you recommend planting with alfalfa pellets?

11/5/2011 4:15:15 PM

In England they plant garlic on the shortest day of the year- Dec 21. Here in the US one can still plant garlic in November in most of the locations: just cover the soil with 5-6 inches of shredded leaves- it will come out fine in spring- you can remove the dry leaves, or whatever left of them in March

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