University of Maryland Extension

Garlic

garlic harvest 

  • Hardiness: Hardy perennial that can withstand winters with protection in colder areas. 
  • Planting: Plant individual cloves between October 1st and November 15th so they have time to grow roots and a few leaves before the cold weather sets in. Plant 1- to 2-inches deep, similar to onion sets, in soil amended with organic matter. Large cloves produce larger bulbs than small cloves. Spring plantings produce smaller bulbs because size is related to the number of leaves initiated prior to bulbing. Garlic likes rich, well- drained soil and will not grow well in soils that are high in clay or compacted. Full sun, requires direct light at least 6 hours/day; prefers 8 - 10 hours/day.
  • Days to maturity: 250 - 270 days (fall-planted).
  • Spacing: 4- to 6-inches apart in the row; improve efficiency by planting double- or triple-wide rows.
  • Fertilizer needs
  • Approximate yield: 5 to 9 pounds per 10-foot row. 
  • Common problems:

Planting and Care of Garlic

  • Two types of garlic are usually grown in home gardens, soft-neck types and hard-neck (top-setting) types. You typically find soft-neck garlic in grocery stores. Compared to hard-neck garlic, it has small cloves but a long storage life. Hard-neck cultivars produce an attractive scape (flower stem) that is pinched out to increase bulb size. The scapes are used as scallions.

    garlic scape
    Scape or flower stem

  • Purchase certified, disease-free garlic bulbs for planting from reputable seed sources. Never plant garlic from a grocery store. It may be a symptomless disease carrier.
  • Elephant garlic is actually a form of leek that forms large cloves resembling garlic.
  • Cultivate very carefully so the shallow root system is not disturbed.
  • Watering - As harvest approaches, watering should be less frequent to avoid disease problems. 
  • Weeding - Cultivate very carefully so the shallow root system is not disturbed.  Remove all young weed seedlings by hand or with a hoe and use a mulch laid along each side of the row to keep weed seeds from germinating. The mulch should be applied after planting and maintained until harvest.

Video-How to Plant Garlic

Harvesting

  • Plant tops begin to die back in late June to early July.  The harvest date for Central MD is around July 1st.
  • Gently lift the plants with a garden fork when about ½ of the foliage turns brown but do not knock the tops over prematurely. 
  • The bulbs should be full-sized and well-wrapped.
  • Allow plants to dry in a well-ventilated location out of direct sun (e.g. on top of window screens propped up on bricks). Cut off the tops after 7-14  days of drying.
  • Some gardeners simply cut off the tops and trim the roots at harvest and then dry the bulbs as described above.

Storage and Preservation 

  • Cool (32°- 38°F), dry (65% - 70% RH) conditions; 6 to 9 months. 
  • Home-grown garlic will usually last through December if stored in a kitchen pantry or basement.
  • To avoid botulism poisoning, do not store fresh garlic in oil unless it is kept in the freezer.

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