Garlic is a wonderful vegetable to grow in your garden. To plant garlic, you need to break garlic bulbs into individual cloves and then plant them. Separating garlic cloves properly ensures healthy, quality growth. Here is a step-by-step guide to separating garlic cloves for planting.
Choose the Right Garlic Bulbs
The first step is selecting suitable garlic bulbs for planting. Look for bulbs that are large, firm and free of mold, damage or sprouting. The variety of garlic determines the number of cloves per bulb. Standard cultivars have at least 8-10 cloves. Elephant garlic bulbs contain 4-6 massive cloves. Opt for bulbs sized 2-3 inches in diameter with plenty of fat, healthy cloves.
Break Apart the Garlic Bulb
Start by breaking apart the bulb into individual cloves. Do this carefully to avoid damaging the cloves. You can either pull the cloves apart with your hands or loosen them using a knife. Gently pry the cloves away from the basal plate at the bottom of the bulb. Try not to cut or puncture the garlic skins.
Select the Best Cloves
Examine the separated cloves and pick out the largest, plumpest ones for planting. Discard any cloves that are shriveled, damaged, moldy or showing signs of sprouting. The biggest cloves will grow into the healthiest bulbs. Set aside smaller cloves for cooking instead of planting. Each clove must be intact and have its papery covering to grow properly.
Optional Cracking Method
Some gardeners recommend cracking garlic cloves before planting by applying light pressure to each one until the skin just cracks. This is said to encourage faster sprouting and stronger root growth. Be very gentle when doing this to avoid squashing or harming the clove.
Sort Cloves by Size
Once you’ve selected the best cloves, sort them by size. This ensures the cloves are evenly spaced when planting. Place the largest cloves in one group, medium cloves in another group, and smallest in a final group. Planting similarly-sized cloves together results in more uniform growth.
Prepare for Planting
Before planting, assemble any other materials you need. Have organic fertilizer, mulch and garden tools on hand. Water the planting beds thoroughly a day before. Garlic thrives in well-draining soil with a pH between 6.2-6.8. Test your soil and add any amendments as needed to create ideal growing conditions.
When to Plant the Cloves
Garlic is usually planted in mid to late fall, about 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes. The cloves need time to establish roots before winter but won’t sprout until spring. For best results, plant garlic in October or November in northern climates. In southern areas with mild winters, cloves can be planted as late as January.
How Deep and Far to Plant Garlic ?
Space garlic cloves 4-6 inches apart with pointy ends up. Plant the cloves 1-3 inches deep depending on your soil. Sandy soils require deeper planting up to 3 inches. In clay or loam soils, a 1-2 inch depth is fine. Place cloves in rows 6-8 inches apart. Stagger the cloves in each row in a zigzag pattern for efficient space use.
Garlic Plant Care Tips
Water cloves regularly if soil is dry. Avoid overwatering.
Mulch beds with 2-3 inches of straw or leaves to retain moisture.
Fertilize garlic once in early spring when shoots emerge.
Weed and loosen soil periodically to improve air circulation.
You’ll know garlic is ready for harvest when the bottom 1-2 layers of leaves turn brown in mid to late summer. Use a digging fork to loosen the bulbs and lift carefully with stems intact. Let bulbs cure for 1-2 weeks in a dry, shaded area before trimming the tops. Your homegrown garlic will keep for up to 9 months stored in a cool, dry spot.
Storing Garlic Cloves
If you don’t plan to plant all your separated cloves right away, they can be stored for later use. Place cloves in a single layer in a basket or mesh bag. Keep in a cool, dry spot with plenty of air circulation. Stored properly, garlic cloves will remain fresh for 2-3 months until you are ready to plant them.
Growing your own garlic from cloves is very rewarding! Follow these tips for separating and planting garlic cloves from bulbs. With proper care, you’ll enjoy a bountiful garlic harvest.