Hamilton College Community Farm

Plant: Garlic

Family: Allium

Seed Varieties:
  • Soft-neck Garlic (Allium sativum, variety sativum) - most common; characterized by papery outer covering, large number of cloves, and flexible stalk; silverskin variety is easier to grow and store; artichoke variety has fewer but larger cloves, milder flavor, coarser bulb wrappers.
  • Hard-neck Garlic (Allium sativum, variety ophioscorodon) - characterized by scape growing from top with bubils; fewer and larger bulbs than soft-neck varieties; less bulb wrapper; shorter shelf life; rocamble variety has several cloves of a tan color; porcelain variety has satiny wrapper with very few cloves; purple stripe variety has distinctive purple markings
When To Plant Outside:

Between September 15 and November 30. After first major frost in the fall is best. It was traditionally planted on Columbus Day.

Bed Spacing and Planting Tips:

Separate the cloves of the seed garlic no more than 24 hours before planting so the rude nodules do not dry out; plant the cloves about 2” deep, 6-8” apart, with rows spaced 8-18”; plant roots down, pointy side up; cover with about 6” of mulch (straw, leaves, grass clippings etc.) This will help protect the germinating garlic against the cold of winter.

Plant Needs:

Well-drained, loose, rich soil with a pH of approximately 6.5 and 1” of water per week during growing season (until June 1). 15-20 grams per 10square feet of an organic Nitrogen fertilizer can be applied between the rows twice during the growing season (April and May) to replenish the supply in the soil.

Cultivation Techniques:

Foliar fertilizer can be applied until May 15. Cut scapes off cleanly with a knife as close to the stem as possible when they’re about 10” long and are curling. This allows a larger bulb to develop.

Pests and pest control:

Weeds are the biggest problem for garlic. It has shallow roots and cannot compete with weeds effectively, and so meticulous weeding is essential. Mulch heavily and weed by hand or with a coliniar hoe to control weeds throughout the growing season. Avoid watering too late in the day, which does not give the leaves a chance to dry, resulting in more likely spread of disease.

Harvest techniques:

Begin harvesting in June or July, when leaf die back has begun, but is not yet complete. (The rule of thumb is to start harvesting when five leaves have died). Loosen the soil down the rows with a fork, and then gently pull up the bulbs. Be careful not to separate the stem from the bulbs, as this will decrease the shelf life of the garlic. Separate out the largest bulbs for seed garlic, bunching 12 together. Gather the remaining garlic into larger bunches.


Hang the bunches of both seed and other garlic out of the sun, in a dry, well-ventilated space for about three weeks. Clean the non-seed garlic by removing the roots, dirty skin, and all but 1.5” of stem, and put in mesh bags, crates, or baskets in a dry, cool, well ventilated storage area. Allow it to dry for another three weeks or so, and then it is ready for use or sale. The seed garlic can be braided, and remain hanging until it is ready to plant. Cleaning is unnecessary. Do not refrigerate garlic!


For retail market, sell by the head. Price will range with size from $0.50 for quite small ones to $2.00 for nice large ones. For wholesale, sell $1.60 per pound.

Companion planting:

Garlic is a natural pesticide, and can help keep pests off many other crops. It especially benefits lettuce, cabbage, and beets. However, avoid planting it with legumes, peas, and potatoes.

Miscellaneous advice:

Garlic extract is a terrific natural pesticide. In addition, because it is so smelly, deer do not bother it, and so it does not need to be planted in the fenced in area.


Garlic Scape and Almond Pesto
Makes about 1 cup

10 garlic scapes, finely chopped
1/3 to 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan (to taste and texture)
1/3 cup slivered almonds (you could toast them lightly, if you'd like)
About 1/2 cup olive oil
Sea salt

Put the scapes, 1/3 cup of the cheese, almonds and half the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor (or use a blender or a mortar and pestle). Whir to chop and blend all the ingredients and then add the remainder of the oil and, if you want, more cheese. If you like the texture, stop; if you'd like it a little thinner, add some more oil. Season with salt.

If you're not going to use the pesto immediately, press a piece of plastic against the surface to keep it from oxidizing. The pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days or packed airtight and frozen for a couple of months, by which time tomatoes should be at their juiciest.