Though you wouldn’t know it from my Polish maiden name, I am half Italian. And as most Italians do, I love garlic. I guess you could say it’s in my blood! Well, fall is an excellent time to plant garlic. You’ll need full sun and a fertile, loamy soil. If your soil is too compacted, it can hinder the growth of the garlic bulbs, and poorly drained soil will cause bulbs to rot. Organic matter is your friend when it comes to building good garden soil, so save those fall leaves and let them compost or use them as mulch. Leaves are gardener’s gold — but that is another topic unto itself entirely. If you are unsure of the condition of the soil in your would-be garlic patch, then you can collect and submit a soil sample for analysis.
Next, you will want to choose a variety, and this is really where you can go down the rabbit hole. Italians aren’t the only nationality to revere garlic, and selections are available from heritage lines developed around the globe. You’ll find varieties with German, Italian and even Polish right in their names. You can choose from softneck (used in braids, smaller cloves, harder to peel) or hardneck (produces edible scapes, larger cloves) and even further subdivisions within those types such as creole or silverskin types. At Summer Breeze farm in Hodges, Debbie McNalley likes to grow the softneck variety, Lorz Italian. She tells me it can take our heat here in the South and she normally plants in late October.
Once you have selected your spicy “chosen one,” or perhaps decided on an assortment of varieties to test out, you can plant each clove separately about 4 inches apart, point up, in rows about a foot apart. Cover them with about an inch of soil, or about as deep as the clove is tall. Keep in mind that garlic are heavy feeders (not unlike me during quarantine!) and you should start with an application of fertilizer and continue applying according to Clemson’s recommended schedule. See the HGIC fact sheet Onion, Leek, Shallot & Garlic on hgic.clemson.edu or email me for a link.
Harvest time will be in early summer next year, when the leaves yellow. You can enjoy your pungent harvest freshly dug, but to store your garlic you will want to lift and cure the bulbs by letting them dry in a warm, shady, well-ventilated spot for a couple weeks. And then, oh the delights you can explore! Savor garlic bread, garlic aioli, garlic butter, roasted garlic, garlic cheese spread and garlic ice cream. Just remember to save a few cloves to start your process over in the fall!
Our local extension office is still closed, but we are still here for you. Please note: My email has changed. You can now reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 864-889-0541. You can also find our Home Garden Information Center online at HGIC.Clemson.edu. Plus, our offices now have a page at facebook.com/GreenwoodCoExtension where we will be posting timely information.