Unless you have Vampires pestering you nightly, now is the optimum time to plant your garlic for harvesting next summer. There is a relatively short window of opportunity to get the job done. Usually Mid-September to Mid-October is when to plant the cloves in the ground, thus giving them the opportunity to set roots before winter comes.
Garlic is a perennial (hence the bulb type root), but we treat it as an annual by planting it in the Fall to be harvested the following summer. It is also very easy to grow and is one of the garden staples that require very little tending to, unlike other vegetables (tomatoes) that require a little more coddling.
What type of garlic to use though? There are literally dozens available, each with it’s own unique characteristics, as is evident from the following link to a seed company catalogue like this one. I just use store bought heads and have never had any difficulty growing them. Garlic is garlic in my opinion. They all stink-purdy.
Garlic doesn’t need much room to grow. Each row should be at least 8 inches wide and as long as needed for how many you are planting. Loosen the soil to a depth of about 6 inches, making sure it is thoroughly worked and leveled out. Make a furrow about 4 inches deep and place one clove into the middle of the furrow (pointy end up) and push it down in the dirt so that just the tip is showing, making sure they are spaced about 4 inches apart.
Now if you live in an area where you get several freeze/thaw cycles before the dead of winter sets in, you will need to protect the bulbs by placing a layer of mulch at least 4″ thick over top of them. This protects the bulbs from being damaged by the repeated freezing and thawing until the ground freezes for good.
Come Spring, you will see shoots emerging as early as April, depending on Mother Nature’s mood of course. If you end up having a surprise spell of warm weather this Fall and your garlic starts sprouting before the ground freezes, don’t worry, keep it covered with mulch and it will be fine come next Spring.
Stay tuned for an update in early May on the continuing care of your garlic, until then, start compiling your many recipes for using garlic now as you will soon be over run with them.