Under the Tree Farm’s Garlic Growing Tips
Plant your garlic in fall, just like a tulip or daffodil bulb! In the Finger Lakes Region of NY (we’re in Zone 5b), we plant our garlic the second week of October.
Garlic loves fertile soil and sun! Plant it in the most productive spot in your garden and you will be rewarded with a bountiful harvest. If you have access to compost or composted cow/horse manure, amend your soil before planting. Break up your garlic heads into individual cloves for planting. Each fall-planted garlic clove will grow into an entire head of garlic!
We plant our garlic cloves 10 inches apart with rows spaced 1 foot apart. Each clove is planted about 3 inches deep into the soil with the pointy side facing upwards. Once our garlic is planted, we mulch our beds with a thick layer of oat straw. You can use hay (dried cut grass), straw (dried stems of grain crops like wheat, rye, or oats), or even dry leaves, to mulch your garlic. When we put down the straw, it is quite fluffy (between 4-6” thick), but the snow over the winter compresses the straw into a thinner, more dense layer that provides weed control and soil moisture retention throughout the growing season.
An important step to growing sizable heads of garlic is fertilizing it in the spring when it is 6-8” tall. On our farm, this is usually early-mid May. We sprinkle our fertilizer on top of the mulch before a rain event. You can use an all purpose 10-10-10 conventional garden fertilizer, or an organic garlic fertilizer blend from Fruition Seeds found by following the links below. If it is a very rainy year, we will give the garlic an additional boost with a foliar feed in June. https://www.fruitionseeds.com/shop/gardening-tools-supplies/organic-fertilizer-amendments/organic-gar lic-and-shallot-fertilizer/
Our garlic is a hardneck variety, which means it makes scapes! In our region, garlic begins to scape in early-mid June. Scapes are edible flower stems that grow from the center of the garlic plant and should be removed to encourage the garlic plant to focus its energy on sizing up the bulb. If you leave the scapes on the plant, they will eventually form bulbils (mini garlic cloves!) and flowers. It is best to snap off the garlic scapes near where they come out of the plant and use them for pesto, stir fry, and more.
For fresh green garlic, you can harvest your garlic before the plant has started to dry down. We begin to harvest our garlic around the first week in July for fresh green (uncured) garlic. Green garlic is absolutely delicious and very juicy! If you’ve never tried it, we recommend pulling a couple of heads early to try it. We let the rest of our garlic size up and cure down for a few more weeks, and usually begin our main harvest the third week in July. When the lower leaves of the plant start to dry down, first turning yellow and then brown, you’ll know it’s time to harvest. You may be able to just pull your garlic plants out of the ground, or you may need to use a digging fork to dig them out, depending on how hard and moist your soil is. We like to bundle our garlic in groups of 15, tie them tightly with a string about 6” up the stem from the bulbs, and hang them in a shed with good air circulation to dry. ****If it is a very wet summer, you may want to cure your garden in a high tunnel or greenhouse. Important: If you use this method, you must make sure the temperature stays below ~100°F to prevent damage to the bulbs. We use shade cloth over the garlic itself, or over the entire greenhouse, to keep the temperature down
Good luck, and happy gardening!
Crystal & Scott Van Gaasbeck
Under the Tree Farm