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Spice Up Your Garden With Garlic

Lee Kindness
Wikimedia Commons

Every variety has its own characteristics. Some have large cloves for roasting, while other cloves are smaller and better for cooking. Some types are spicy hot. Others are quite mild.

Softneck garlic is ready for harvest when the first few leaves start to turn brown and become dry. That is usually in early July. Softneck varieties are the best for braiding. 

Hardneck garlic is a bit later. It is ready when the stiff leaves or scapes become straight. We cut most of the scapes off in June to provide more energy for bigger bulbs. The scapes have become a delicacy for stir frying, grilling or pesto.

Knock off any loose soil and dry the garlic. Keep it in a ventilated room out of the direct sun. In a couple of weeks the skin will become papery and protect the bulb. Softneck varieties keep longer than the hardneck types. 

When to Plant Garlic

In our region, garlic planted in the autumn is ready for harvest the following July. Like spring flowering bulbs garlic will set roots and start to grow in the warm autumn soil. As the soil cools the growth stops.  But the plant is ready to start growing as soon as the soil warms up in the spring.

Garlic likes even moisture, not too wet and not too dry.

We separate out the largest bulbs for seed garlic. Crack the bulbs and plant the individual cloves. Some hardneck varieties may only have six or eight cloves per bulb. Softneck varieties may have twelve or more cloves. Keep the papery skin on the cloves to protect them at planting. 

How to Plant Garlic

Space garlic cloves about six inches apart. We plant a double row. The rows are six inches apart and the cloves are planted about six inches apart in the rows. That gives us room to cultivate so weeds don’t take over. 

We plant the cloves a couple of inches deep. Some folks like to plant deeper in our area. We plant a little shallower but mulch the garlic beds. Once the soil freezes we cover the beds with a couple of inches of compost. The compost holds in moisture and prevents the freeze thaw cycle. 

Garlic is a heavy feeder and likes nitrogen fertilizer. The compost will add some nutrients but we’ll need to add more. Fish emulsion is a natural source of nitrogen. As the garlic grows in the spring we’ll water periodically with a fish emulsion solution. Garlic likes even moisture, not too wet and not too dry. 


Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
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