CO-Horts Blog

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Give it up for Garlic!

Posted by: Alison O'Connor, Larimer County Extension

As we move into "vampire season" (Halloween), it's always a good idea to keep some garlic on hand. And what better way to keep those white fangs at bay with planting and growing your own garlic!
(photo from
Garlic is in the same family as onions, chives and ornamental alliums. The two types of garlic that grow best in Colorado are softneck (Allium sativum var. sativum) and hardneck (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon). Softneck stores longer and is commonly braided. Hardneck tends to have more flavor and is easier to peel. Hardneck garlic also sends up a flowering scape, which you can harvest in early summer for additions to your stir-fry.

Be sure to buy your garlic from a nursery, garden center or local farmers' market. Garlic purchased at the grocery store is generally treated to prevent sprouting, therefore will not sprout in your garden. There are many types of seed garlic available, with different flavors.
I purchased these garlic heads at the farmers' market. They were $1.50/each.
Though you should really plant garlic a few weeks before the first expected frost (which is generally around September 15 in the Front Range), I'm a little late with my garlic planting and just put it in the ground. Fortunately, this fall has been really warm and there isn't an expected frost in the forecast for at least 10 days. The warm soil will help the cloves get rooted before really cold weather sets in.

Planting garlic could not be easier. Honestly, if you think you have a black thumb, plant some garlic. It's virtually fool-proof. It's quick to get in the ground and very low maintenance.

Dig a trench in your garden or raised bed. The trench can be as long as you want and about 2-3" deep. Garlic is a bulb and will be planted just like tulips or crocus.

Trench it. Trench it real good.
Take your garlic head and gently break it apart to separate the cloves. Plant only the largest cloves, as they will form the largest garlic heads.
Break apart your garlic head to separate the cloves.
Plant each clove 2-3" deep and 4-6" apart; poke the bottom of the garlic clove into the ground with the pointy end up. No, you don't need to peel the cloves--leave the paper on!
Plant pointy end up!
The garlic planted in the ground.
Then cover the cloves with soil, breaking up any large clods. Water following planting. In my garden, I haven't yet blown out my sprinkler system, so I replaced the drip lines over the top of the garlic. Next summer, the garlic will receive regular water with the rest of the garden. This fall, I will water the garlic once or twice per week to help get roots established, and once a month in winter if we don't have regular snowfall.
Drip irrigation over the garlic row.
Because my lawn needed mowing, I collected some grass clippings and mulched over the top of the garlic (and drip irrigation) and I added some leaf litter.
The garlic is bedded in for winter. 
That's it! Next spring, the garlic will send up green shoots. It will be ready for harvest when half of the stalk withers and browns (late summer). To harvest the garlic, use a garden fork to lift the bulbs...trying to pull it out by the stalk will result it in breaking.

And for some reason, I can't get John Lennon's song "Give Peace a Chance" out of my head as I type this. So.....all I am sayin' give garlic a chance!
Yay garlic!


  1. A helpful comment from Mister Bill, a faithful blog reader:
    After breaking up the bulb of garlic, be sure to plant the cloves right away. Delaying planting can cause the rooting end to dry out, resulting in poor yield. So be sure to plant ASAP after breaking apart the cloves.

  2. You are right! I can't seem to grow anything well in my veggie garden, except for garlic. And I have a pretty nice lawn too. Great instructions on how to plant garlic. Iwill send this to my friends who are always asking me how I grow such nice garlic. I look forward to reading your new blogs every week. I like that there is something new and interesting every few days. Thanks for your fun writing!