The Basics On Planting Garlic

Basil and tomatoes are a staple in home gardens, especially those kept by Italians. But garlic, a base for so many meals across so many cultures is grown significantly less. Why? I’m assuming it’s because garlic is a cool-weather crop and you can’t buy a starter plant at the garden center. Moreover, many people assume the garden season ends when September hits. NYC is garden Zone 7 which means we can grow food and plant for the spring until the first frost. These days, that feels like mid-December. Kale, collards, spinach, lettuce, and alike can be planted from early April and as late as August for a continued supply of greens through November/December.

garlicMake sure to label where you planted the garlic, so you’ll remember in the spring.

This will be my first year planting garlic! It’s a little late in the season, so if you’re interested in doing this, get to it over the weekend. Ideally, in New York, you should plant garlic in mid-October. My friend Diane Cardwell, expert garlic-planter said it should be fine if planted now. Diane graciously supplied me with two of her homegrown bulbs. 

Garlic grows from individual cloves broken off from the head. You can use garlic from the supermarket but if you have the opportunity to buy from a farmstand, at a garlic festival, or from a site like, that would work best. There are so many varieties!  While Diane isn’t sure of the type of garlic she passed along to me, (the identification markers faded last year), we do know it’s the porcelain hardneck type, producing 4-7 large cloves. And the flavor is sharp and strong!

How to plant garlic:

Pick a sunny location with rich, well-drained soil. (Garlic can also be planted in a container. It requires little space).

  1. Gently break apart the garlic bulb so you have the plantable cloves. Leave a thin layer of skin on. 
  2. Dig a small trench 4 inches deep. Place the root side down in the ground, pointy side faces up. Space 4 inches apart, each row – 2 inches apart. Cover with soil.
  3. Add a top layer of straw or mulch for protection from the elements.
  4. Clearly mark the garlic rows so you don’t accidentally dig them up or plant over them in April.

Note: Garlic, year-to-year should be rotated in the garden bed. 

In the early spring, you’ll see sprouts! And in July, the garlic will be ready to harvest. When the scape and leaves start to die off, it’s time to carefully dig them out. Next summer I’ll update on this and write about my experience harvesting garlic for the first time. I like the idea of forgetting about something and then being happily reminded in the spring that you’re planting has awoken from the winter!

For more plant talk follow Paula on Instagram @theglorifiedtomato
Previously published in The Wave

tagged in fall, gardening