Soil Preparation and Planting
Plant garlic cloves in October or 4 weeks before the first frost. This time allows the roots to develop before the long winter’s rest. Our NL soil is acidic with a pH level of 4-4.5. Garlic prefers a less acidic soil, more neutral soil of pH 6.5. The addition of pelletized limestone and kelp to the soil will raise the pH.
Planting garlic in raised beds or in raised soil rows will make the task of weeding more efficient and enjoyable. These methods also provide adequate drainage for your garlic crop.
When the soil is prepared, carefully break the garlic head into individual cloves. Garlic can bruise, so handle carefully leaving the papery cover on, unless it falls off. Plant intact cloves but do not plant any cloves, which are soft or bruised.
Make holes 3 inches deep and space the holes 4 to 6 inches apart. Plant individual cloves with the root base down and the pointy end up. Pat the earth down over the clove to ensure that the soil is in contact with the clove.
Spread a layer of mulch at least 2 inches thick all over the garlic bed.
Mulch protects the planted garlic from extremes of temperature during the winter. Raw peat, leaves, and kelp are good sources of mulch.
Leave the mulch on to suppress weeds and retain moisture until spring. Remove mulch if the garlic plants are too wet. Do not use wood chips as mulch because they deplete the soil of nitrogen.
Fertilizing and Watering
In the spring, fertilize using kelp based soil amendments with fish emulsion as directed on the bottle. Spray the liquid fertilizer directly onto the garlic leaves. You will notice that the leaves become dark green and the plant appears stronger. Repeat the fertilizing every 2 weeks during June, July and mid August. Water as needed from spring until one week before harvest. As harvest time approaches, reduce regular watering because it is not needed and excess moisture may cause mold.
Pre-Harvest and Weeding
Weed often so that garlic can grow freely without competition for nutrients. In July, watch for the curled seed stalk which suddenly grows out of each garlic plant. This is called a scape and you can eat this fresh garlic flavored stalk.
Harvest, Curing and Storage
Notice when the garlic leaves dry up and turn yellow. It is time to harvest when an average of 6 green leaves remain on each plant. This occurs in mid August or later depending on weather conditions. Loosen the earth around the plant before pulling gently to release the garlic bulb from the earth. Carefully shake off the excess soil from the roots. DO NOT RINSE SOIL OFF WITH WATER.
Garlic needs air to cure properly and should not be harvested in wet conditions. Do not leave harvested plants in a garage, wheelbarrow or bucket.
Tie harvested garlic in groups of 10 to 12 and hang in a well-ventilated, dry area for three weeks. A dehumidifier can be used to hasten the drying process.
When garlic is fully dried, trim the roots and cut the stalk to 2 inches. Peel off the outermost bulb wrapper. Store in a net bag to allow for air circulation. Do not refrigerate garlic because it will sprout.
Fresh garlic can be enjoyed before the curing process, however, the taste matures as it cures.