When is the best time to plant garlic?
In most parts of the United States, garlic is planted in fall—about 6 weeks before the average date of the first fall frost in your area. Southern gardeners also have the option of planting in late winter.
Because garlic sold in grocery stores has often been treated with chemicals to inhibit sprouting, purchase untreated garlic from a farmers’ market, garden center, or mail-order retailer. Separate the garlic bulbs into individual cloves, then plant them 2 or 3 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Add a few inches of loose straw as a winter mulch. The cloves will likely send up tentative green shoots in fall, then go dormant with cold weather. Growth reappears in full force with the warmth of spring. The garlic will be ready to harvest next summer when the foliage yellows and topples over.
There are two basic types of garlic: softneck, the typical grocery-store garlic that stores well and is favored by Southern growers; and hardneck, which offers larger cloves that are easier to peel and edible “scapes,” or flowering stalks. —Doug Hall