Fall planting gives garlic a crucial head-start. Plants will be stronger and bulbs will be bigger at harvest.
October is usually the best month to plant garlic in North America. Planting garlic in the fall for the following year gives your garlic time to grow sturdy, solid roots which keep it firmly anchored in the ground. In Michigan, the best time to plant garlic is right around Halloween.
Garlic Planting Step by Step…
- Break up your garlic heads. Simply separate each clove from selected heads of garlic. Keep the paper on the clove as much as possible. Be sure to look closely at the foot of the garlic to be sure that each clove is separate. It is easy plant two together, but they will compete and not grow as nicely.
- Prepare your garden space. Be sure that the soil is loose enough so that the clove can grow without hitting a hard part of the ground.
- Make a 4 to 6” deep hole that is 1” wide and slide the garlic right in.
- Make sure to plant each clove “pointy-side up”! Garlic pointed upside down will have a tough time getting started, having to make a U-turn to find the sun; the plant will never really catch up.
- Once the ground freezes, cover with mulch or leaves to help prevent them heaving out of the ground.
California White and Killarney Red:
California White is a softneck garlic. If you want garlic that will keep longest through the winter, try softneck: the pliable stems can be braided for hanging (braided garlic makes a beautiful gift) which anyone can use. Most commercially sold garlic is softneck, due to its milder flavor and good keeping qualities: you can recognize it by the layers of up to 20 cloves around a soft stem which may be almost unnoticeable. Softneck also has a reputation for being easy to grow, particularly in cooler climates.
Killarney Red is a hardneck garlic. Some maintain that hardneck garlic is superior in flavor and intensity, and the cloves are larger and easier to peel. Hardnecks also produce wonderful scapes in spring, which can be cut and used in savory pestos, soups, and stir-fries. The number of cloves may be less but they are often larger than softneck, and surround the woody stem in a single ring.