The Q&A Archives: How to Grow Garlic

Question: Last year I tried to grow garlic in my garden and was VERY unsuccessful. I planted cloves of regular garlic and elephant garlic in the late fall. By mid-Summer (which I understood was picking time) the garlic heads were about the diameter of my thumb; by fall the elephant garlic heads were smaller than the size of regular garlic heads. What am I doing wrong? Our garden gets moderate sun for half of the day. The soil is fairly well amended (we till-in compost twice a year; I'm currently having our extension service do a soil analysis), and the garlic lies under a foot of leaf mulch all winter. We live in Minneapolis.

Answer: Timing of planting is the critical factor for planting garlic, especially in the far north. The farther north, the earlier in the fall you must plant. In Minneapolis, for instance, cloves must be in the ground no later than late September for proper root development before the onset of winter. Garlic enjoys full sun a sandy loam enriched with lots of organic matter. Heavier soils with organic matter also produce good bulbs (often larger) but the storing quality goes down. Late planting and insufficient sunlight sound like the culprits to your poor garlic crop.

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