Hardiness: Hardy perennial that can tolerate Maryland winters. Treated as an annual crop.
Planting: Plant individual cloves mid-late October so they have time to grow roots and a few leaves before cold weather sets in. Dig a 5-inch deep furrow. Plant cloves bottom-side down and pointy tip-up. This is especially important for hard-neck cultivars and less critical for soft-neck cultivars. Each clove should be covered with 1 to 2 inches of soil. Large cloves produce larger bulbs than small cloves. Spring plantings produce smaller bulbs because cloves must be exposed to 32⁰-50⁰ F. temperatures for two months prior to bulb enlargement (triggered by long days). Also, spring-planted garlic can’t produce enough foliage to support large bulb development. Garlic grows best in deep, well-drained soil high in organic matter. It does 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: 3- to 6-inches apart in the row; improve efficiency by planting double- or triple-wide rows.
Fertilizer needs: High requirement for nutrients, either from soil organic matter or fertilizers. Fertilize prior to planting in fall, in April, and, if needed, in late May. Refer to Fertilizing Vegetables for details.
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.
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. When ordering, there are 6-7 bulbs per pound of large hard-neck garlic and each bulb has 6-7 cloves.
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. An organic mulch, like shredded leaves or straw, can be spread along each side of the row to keep weed seeds from germinating. Many gardeners apply mulch after planting and maintain it through harvest. Other gardeners find that un-mulched plants resume growth quicker in the spring and produce larger bulbs.
In Central Maryland, plant tops begin to die back in late June to early July. The harvest date for Central MD is around July 1st but varies by cultivar and growing season.
Gently lift the plants with a garden fork when about ½ of the foliage turns brown.
The bulbs should be full-sized and well-wrapped. Gently brush off attached soil. Handle plants gently.
Allow plants to dry, with tops attached, in a well-ventilated location out of direct sunlight (e.g. on top of window screens in a carport or porch). Cut off the tops after 7-14 days of drying (unless you intend to braid the plants). Gently rub off any remaining soil and trim the roots.
Storage and preservation
Cool (32°- 38°F), dry (65% RH) conditions are best
Garlic bulbs will typically keep for 6-9 months after harvest when stored in a cool, dry basement. Store bulbs 1 to 2 layers deep in a ventilated bag or container.