Botanical Name: Allium sativum var. sativum
Family: Alliaceae (formerly Liliaceae) Allium or Onion family, includes onions, garlic, chives, shallots, and leeks.
Native: Central Asia
Variety Information: Flavor starts mild and gets hot; smooth and complex flavor when baked. Bulbs contain up to 15 cloves. Stores 6 to 8 months.
Exposure: Full sun to part shade.
When to Sow Outside: Garlic is planted in fall for harvest 7 to 9 months later (midsummer). In areas with cold winters, sow individual cloves from mid-September to mid-November. Garlic is frost-hardy, but ideally should be planted 4 to 6 weeks before the first hard freeze to give the bulbs time to establish roots. In areas with mild winters, garlic can be planted until January.
When to Start Inside: Not recommended if you want to grow bulbs. If you don't get your garlic in the ground, the cloves can be planted indoors any time of year for the green tops that make tasty garlic-flavored raw greens or stir-fry ingredients.
Seed Depth: Plant garlic 2"–3" deep with the pointed side up.
Seed Spacing: One clove every 6"–8"
Row Spacing: 12"–18"
Special Instructions: After planting, apply 2"–4" of mulch (e.g., straw, untreated grass clippings, shredded leaves) to maintain moisture, insulate the cloves through the winter, and help prevent frost from pushing cloves to the surface. Loosen mulch in spring to allow shoots to push through thick or compacted mulch. In very cold climates, remove mulch after the last hard freeze to allow soil to warm more quickly. Reapply mulch after shoots emerge to maintain consistent moisture and reduce weeds.
Remove weeds regularly to reduce competition for water and nutrients. In spring, hardneck garlic will produce a tall stem with a curlicue at the top and a swollen flower bud at the end. In most cases, this flower stalk, called a scape, should be removed to keep the plant's energy focused on bulb growth and to keep bulbs tight. Scapes can be eaten and have a mild garlic flavor.
Harvesting: Garlic bulbs are ready to harvest when the tops are approximately 40% yellow or brown, or start to fall over. This is typically in June and July. Do not leave bulbs in the ground too long or the skins will decay, reducing storage life. To harvest, lift the bulbs gently with a digging fork, (flat tines) or a shovel, digging widely to avoid cutting into them. Gently brush off any loose soil and remove any damaged cloves, but leave the roots and shoots attached. Lay or hang whole plant in a warm, airy location out of direct sun and protected from rain before curing. For more information, see Garlic: Harvesting, Curing, and Storage.