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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

Fall is the time to plant garlic

By Kathy Kunemund

PREVIEW Columnist

Fall is the perfect time to get a jump on planting crops in your garden that you will harvest next summer. 

You might want to think about planting garlic. Garlic is very easy to grow and perfect for beginner gardeners. Garlic needs to be planted by the end of October and will be ready to harvest by July of next year.

Fall provides many opportunities to plant perennials. Plants can direct their energy to developing vigorous root growth instead of producing growth on top. As the air begins to cool in fall the soil will stay warm, providing additional ideal conditions for root growth. Overall, cooling temperatures place less stress on plants as opposed to extreme heat during summer months.

Garlic is considered a hardy perennial that can overwinter in the ground. It is grown as an annual, however, because you will harvest it in its first year of growth. Garlic will grow roots until the ground freezes and then goes dormant. It will start to produce green foliage in March or April as temperatures begin to warm. The garlic will be ready to harvest between June and August, depending on the variety selected.

A garlic bulb consists of several small cloves that are covered in a parchment-like exterior covering. The cloves are situated around a sturdy but modified flower stem. These immature flower stems are referred to as scapes. Scapes will begin to form in midsummer and need to be removed so the plant can put more energy into its bulb production. This will result in a larger bulb forming. Garlic scapes should be pinched or cut off just above the top leaf of the garlic plant. The good news is scapes are edible and are most tender if they are removed when they begin to curl. 

You first must consider what type of garlic you would like to grow. Now is the time to purchase your bulbs from a garden center, seed catalog or online distributor. You might be thinking I will just purchase some at the grocery store. I highly discourage you from doing so as it is often treated with anti-growth products that will prevent them from developing. 

There are two types of garlic varieties: hardneck (ophioscorodon) and softneck (sativum).


This is the most cold-hardy of all garlic types. It is called hardneck because the garlic cloves surround a stiff central stem that curls as it grows. This is known as a scape, which looks like a curly spike with a bulbous end. Hardneck garlic usually have larger cloves and are very flavorful. There are three main groups of hardneck garlic: rocambole, porcelain and purple stripe. 


Softneck garlic is most commonly found in supermarkets. They tend to be more flexible and have softer stems than the hardneck varieties. Most softneck garlics have been bred not to produce scapes. It typically does well in warmer climates and they produce much smaller cloves. Softneck varieties include silver white, Lorz Italian and Inchelium red.

I should also mention elephant or great-headed garlic (allium ampeloprasum). This is not a true garlic and is closely related to the garden leek. Its flavor is somewhere between that of an onion and garlic. It grows a larger bulb and is not as hardy as true garlic. 

Planting garlic

First, begin by selecting a sunny spot to plant your bulbs in your garden. This will ensure larger bulbs. If you have heavy clay soil or sandy soil, you should amend the soil with some compost or sphagnum peat moss prior to planting. Break apart each bulb into cloves, keeping the wrapper on each one. Choose the largest cloves to plant to ensure the biggest bulbs next summer. 

Make a trench in the soil three times as deep as the clove. Plant the cloves with the pointed end up 4-6 inches apart. Cover the bulbs with soil and water it well. Garlic thrives best in moist, well-drained soil. Do not let the soil dry out during this time. It will also need consistent moisture throughout the winter to fully develop. You should continue to water once every three weeks depending on the amount of precipitation you receive. Once the garlic is planted you will want to cover with mulch. During the fall the bulb puts much of its effort into producing a root system. If you do see some shoots develop during warmer fall days don’t be shocked, they should be able to withstand colder temperatures to come.

During spring and early summer, continue to water to prevent the soil from drying out. Be sure to keep the bed free of weeds. Garlic does not compete well with other plants. Stop watering when the tops of the plants begin to fall over and dry up, which will be about two to four weeks before harvesting. 

Harvesting garlic

When it is time to harvest, carefully lift each bulb out of the soil with a garden hand tool. Be careful not to puncture any of the cloves, as they bruise easily. Any open wounds in the bulb or stem can quickly lead to a fungal infection. After removing them from the soil gently brush or rub the dirt off and let any remaining residue dry off while the garlic cures. Keep the bulbs in a warm, shaded area with ventilation for about two to three weeks. Good air circulation is important. At this time, you will want to remove any remaining leaves and cut the stem to about 2 inches. Store your bulbs in a cool place until you are ready to use. Save some bulbs for next year’s planting, too.

Upcoming events

Oct. 2: Cottage Foods Training — an online event. Please go our Facebook page or website to register or call the office for more information.

Oct. 19, 4 to 6 p.m.: Shred it. Bring up to three boxes of paper and make a donation to support 4-H. Downtown TBK parking lot. 

Oct. 20, 4:30 to 6 p.m. 4-H open house at the Extension office. Please visit the website, Facebook or call for times to sign up. 

Oct. 26, 8:15 a.m. to 3 p.m.: Cattlewomen’s College. Please go to https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScYo5S8knWE2cKU0NTTfql2qbuHrZ8zV8pJ91eugyPhuBN4OQ/viewform to register. See our Facebook page for more information.

Nov. 3: ServSafe for restaurant workers. 

Visit online

Visit us on the Web at https://archuleta.extension.colostate.edu/ or like us on Facebook and get more information: https://www.facebook.com/CSUARCHCTY.

CPR and first aid classes

CPR and first aid certification classes are offered monthly by the CSU Extension office, generally on the second Monday and Wednesday of each month from 6 to 10 p.m. The cost for the classes is $80 for combined CPR/first aid and $55 for CPR, first aid or recertification. Call the Extension office at 246-5931 to register.

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