Steps on How to Plant Garlic Cloves in the Fall

Step 1: Purchase Seed Garlic

Do not use imported table garlic for planting. Not only will it grow poorly, but you risk the possibility of infecting your garden or farm field with foreign-based diseases. No self-respecting garlic grower wants to be known as the Typhoid Mary of  Ontario garlic. Planting garlic from stock produced near your growing zone will be better acclimated than bulbs ordered from out of province. Garlic bulbs suitable for planting—seed garlic—can be found through mail order, at garlic festivals and in farmers’ markets from late July until October.

Step 2: “Crack” the Garlic

To release cloves, “crack” the bulb by breaking the skin on the bulb. Each head or bulb of garlic is cracked or opened to release the individual cloves for planting. Each clove, once planted, will grow into a mature garlic plant. To crack a bulb of garlic, hold it in both hands, stem facing up. Pierce the skin with one thumb, using the other thumb to lever the stem back and forth. Once you’ve removed one clove, the others will easily break off the basal root plate. With a little practice, you’ll find the sweet spot on each bulb. It’s preferable to crack bulbs as close to the time of planting as possible. Be sure to leave many layers of  skin (also known as “wrappers”) intact on each clove. Cracking garlic bulbs may seem at first to be a tedious task, but I learned to enjoy its Zen-like repetition. Sometimes I’ll work on another task while cracking the garlic. For example, I’ll crack garlic while on a hands free call with the phone company to inquire about their most recent unexplained charge on my bill. While I’m on hold, I can get all the garlic cracked.

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Step 3: Plant Garlic Cloves

Once your bulbs are separated into cloves, they’re ready for planting. Plant in the fall, before the first frost. Garlic cloves can vary considerably in length from a quarter inch to an inch or more (0.6 to 2.5 centimetres), so it’s recommended to use a planting depth that’s relative to the length of the clove. Use a trowel to dig a hole at a depth of three to four times the length of the clove. Place the clove in the hole, pointy end facing up and flat end down, and cover with soil. Soil depth is measured from soil surface to tip of the clove. In heavy and clay soil, plant at three times the length of the clove. In loose or sandy soil, plant deeper—four times the clove length. Plant each clove six inches (fifteen centimetres) apart. Pat soil firmly. Plant rows at a distance of ten inches (twenty-five centimetres) between rows. Plant garlic in straight rows, as this makes it easier to weed in the spring if using a hoe or  mechanical weeder.

A simple way to create straight rows is to tie each end of a string to a stake and align the string in the row intended for planting. Pull the string tight and push the stake at each end into the soil. Once your row is planted move the string and stakes to the next row.

Get first hand information on planting garlic and so much more at the 8th Annual Toronto Garlic Festival on Sunday, September 16, 2018, 9am to 5pm at Artscape Wychwood Barns – 601 Christie Street at St Clair Ave West, Toronto. Admission is only $5!