Q: I was wondering if you could give me some advice on growing garlic. What kind of soil do I need?
A: Felder Rushing, author of the newly released “Tough Plants for Tough Places” is an eighth generation Southern garlic gardener. He says to plant garlic in the fall; it requires a long growing season to develop large bulbs. Garlic prefers a location in full sun with loose, well-drained soil. Planting in compacted soil will result in small, misshapen bulbs.
Start garlic from the cloves (sometimes called toes) which you’ve separated from a bulb. Plant individual cloves 2 inches deep and 4 inches apart in rows 1 foot apart. To have straight necks on the bulbs, keep the pointed ends up. Make sure garlic has plenty of water if the weather turns dry.
Garlic begins to bulb when the days get longer in May and June. The larger the plants at that time, the larger the bulbs will be, so it is important to keep the plants growing healthily. If a flower head begins to develop (it looks like a round spear), snip the stalk off to force energy back down into the bulb. Harvest garlic as soon as most of the leaves have turned yellow, usually in early summer. Dry garlic keeps much better than onions. Save some of the very best bulbs for planting the next season.