JoAnne Skelly: Growing glorious garlic

Arnold Carbone of Glorious Garlic Farm recently taught a workshop on growing garlic at the Foothill Garden, on the Carson Tahoe Health Campus.

“Garlic is very forgiving,” was how Arnold started his class. There are three basics to consider when planting garlic: soil, sun and seed.

Garlic requires a loose, sandy loam soil with good drainage and a pH of 6 to 7. The looser the soil, the bigger the bulb. The soil mix Arnold recommends, particularly when growing in raised beds or containers, is 1/3 top or potting soil, 1/3 bulky organic material such as aged compost or manure and 1/3 sand.

Garlic needs a minimum of six hours of sun per day. Starting with high-quality seed garlic is important, because garlic can carry diseases that might ruin soil for it and onions, shallots, leeks and chives (alliums) for years. Avoid planting garlic in the same place where you have grown other alliums for three years.

Garlic seeds are the individual cloves of the bulb. Sprinkle bone meal (phosphorus) in the furrow. Place the cloves pointy end up four to five inches deep and five inches apart from each other. Rows should be 10 inches apart. Fifteen cloves per square yard is a good rule of thumb. There is no need to strip the paper skin.

Cover with soil and compost and put three inches to four inches of mulch on top. Putting netting on top of the mulch will hold it in place in the wind. The mulch will reduce soil heaving due to frost. Water thoroughly at planting and again through the fall and winter only when the soil is dry. Do not overwater because garlic rots easily. Raised beds and containers may dry out more readily than in-ground plantings.

Plant garlic before November. This allows roots to develop slowly over winter and means that plants will be strong and grow better in the spring. Garlic emerges in March to April. Feed the garlic plants twice in the spring with liquid kelp or fish emulsion.

Keep weeds and other plants away from the garlic, because “Garlic doesn’t like company.” Snip off any flower stalks that appear and use them in cooking. Otherwise, the garlic will go to seed and the crop of bulbs will be tiny.

For information, read Growing Great Garlic by Ron Englin. Arnold has limited supplies of seed garlic still available, but you may sign up to buy seed garlic for next year’s crop now. Contact him at

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. Email


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