WHEN TO PLANT
You can plant garlic pretty much all winter, provided the ground is workable, but it is traditional to plant it in October in order to give the roots a chance to get established. It is also the time when garlic bulbs are most available at garden centres.
The bulb may even sprout before winter arrives, but a little mulching will protect the bulb from being damaged. Ideally, you want cloves to root but not produce shoots before winter.
WHERE TO GROW IT
Garlic thrives in well-drained, deep, fertile soil in a sunny location. It pays to work the ground ahead of planting to make sure the soil is soft and loamy.
Garlic is a heavy feeder, so work into the soil plenty of rotted compost.
HOW TO PLANT
First, break the cloves from the bulb. When you have done this, you will see you have cloves of various sizes. The small ones are unlikely to produce much of a bulb. Use these in the kitchen or plant them without a lot of expectations.
The large cloves will give you a harvest. Put each clove into the ground to a depth of about five to seven cm (two to three inches) about six to 10 inches apart.
Mulch after planting to give the cloves a little more protection from frost over winter. But garlic is a tenacious plant and can tolerate some abuse and hard weather. But it does need to be watered regularly in spring. It hates to be left in parched soil. It is also irritated by weeds, so you need to be conscientious about removing any weed competition. You will find in spring it is one of the first plants out of the ground, along with crocuses and early tulips and daffodils.
WHEN TO HARVEST
The cloves will reproduce themselves to form a new bulb of individual cloves by July. It’s time to harvest when you see the leaves starting to turn brown and die back. To be safe, you can scrape soil away and feel the top of the bulb: it should be big and bumpy with new cloves. Some people use a fork but others find they often pierce bulbs by accident and prefer using a flat spade and digging a little deeper.
How to Cure or Dry Fresh Garlic for Use and Storing
Brush off any soil clinging to the bulbs. Leave the stalks and roots on the bulbs, while they dry.
Allow the bulbs to cure, or dry, for three to four weeks in either a well-ventilated room or a dry, shady spot outside. Sunlight can change the flavor of fresh garlic. Once the tops and roots have dried they can be cut off.You can also further clean the bulbs by removing the outer skins. Just be careful not to expose any of the cloves.
How to Store Garlic
Keep your garlic is a cool (32 degrees F – 40 degrees F) dark place where it will still get some air circulation. Braiding and hanging garlic is a good way to keep it, but don’t hang it in the kitchen, where it will be in bright light. You could also store your garlic in a mesh bag or dish.
Softneck varieties of garlic can be stored for 6 – 8 months. Check periodically to make sure it is not going soft or sprouting.
Hardneck varieties may dry out, sprout or go soft within 2-4 months. Keeping hardnecks at 32oF sometimes helps them survive for up to 7 months without deteriorating.
Saving Seed Cloves of Your Garlic to Plant Next Fall
If you’re a beginning seed saver, there is nothing easier than saving garlic. Simply put aside a few top quality bulbs to plant next season. Store bulbs for replanting at room temperature, with a fairly high humidity, so they don’t dry out.