Growing garlic is not difficult, but it does take a long time. Patience is key. But the reward is produce that will flavor your whole year and store wonderfully. You will save a ton of money not having to buy grocery store garlic. Once you plant it the first year, you will have seeds forever.
Garlic is planted in the fall and harvested in the summer. Here in Oklahoma we plant in late September or early October and harvest in late June or early July. I recommend purchasing a good quality organic garlic to begin with. I ordered ours online. If you want to store the garlic all year, choose soft neck varieties. They store better. Leave the heads whole until you’re ready to plant. Find an area that you are willing to commit to the garlic for the long season because you won’t be able to use it for anything else until summer.
Prepare your area. Garlic likes loose well-drained soil. Once your bed is prepared, break off one clove of garlic at a time and plant it 2-4 inches deep, with each clove 4-6 inches from the next one. One head of garlic could have anywhere from 8-20 cloves. Plant the largest ones and save the tiny ones for cooking. Mulch the bed well with about 4 inches of straw, leaves, or other mulch. Water it well. For the next few months, make sure the garlic receives one inch of water per week. You may see green shoots come up before or during the winter and you may not. Either way, no worries, your garlic is doing great. It’s pretty much a fool proof crop.
By June you should have tall leaves on top the garlic. Watch them weekly to see when the outer leaves begin to turn brown. When you have five green leaves left in the middle and the outer leaves are all brown, it’s time to harvest your garlic. Carefully dig around each head and work it loose. Don’t pull by the leaves or they could break off and leave your garlic head in the ground.
Immediately move them out of the sun to cure. A window screen, wire shelving, or something of that nature would work great to give the garlic air circulation and keep it out of the sun. My brother in law built me some awesome frames to use as compost sifters and I used those this year. It was a great help to have them! Thanks Chris! Let them cure for about 3 weeks.
I store my garlic by braiding it and hanging it on the wall in my laundry room. If you can braid hair, you can make a simple garlic braid. You can also cut the leaves off and store it in panty hose or plastic mesh bags. Just place a head in and tie a knot and then place the next head in. Hang up your bags or braids and just cut one off as needed throughout the year. Remember to save a few heads for seeds next time!