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To grow garlic bulbs, you should typically begin by planting large cloves properly at the right time of year for your area. While you can plant garlic in the spring, it is usually best to plant cloves in late fall or autumn, which allows the garlic to develop over the winter and makes it ready for harvest in spring or summer. You should choose an area in your yard or garden for planting garlic that has good drainage and proper pH, though it may also need fertilizer and mulch. Once the garlic bulbs have grown to a sufficient size, you can pull them from the ground and use them as you please.
Garlic bulbs are related to onions and grow similarly, though they produce a bulb that consists of groups of cloves within a single garlic head. To begin growing garlic, use a healthy garlic head with a number of large cloves. You should plant the largest cloves you can, and use any small cloves for cooking. Garlic cloves can potentially be planted in the spring for early autumn harvest, but they often do better when planted in late autumn.
Autumnal planting should be done following the first few frosts, but before the ground has frozen. Garlic bulbs should be planted as individual cloves, which have been carefully separated from the other cloves and the base plate of the garlic head. Each clove can be planted a couple of inches (about 5 cm) down in the soil, with the top or pointed end facing upward. Plant your garlic bulbs in an area with proper drainage so as to not flood your planted cloves. This soil should have a pH balance over 6 with a recommended balance of around 6.5 or 7.
You should typically mix organic fertilizer with your soil as you plant garlic bulbs; you may need to experiment a bit to find the fertilizer that works best. Once the planted cloves are covered with soil, you should consider adding about a foot (around 30 cm) of mulch over the soil if you have very cold winters. While the garlic can survive the cold temperatures and snow, the freezing and thawing of the ground can push the garlic out of the soil, and mulch covering can prevent this.
Once the ground begins to thaw in early spring, you should ensure the soil is properly watered and remove any mulch that covered your garlic bulbs. Depending on what type of garlic you plant, you should expect to see shoots or “scapes” come up from the bulbs, possibly with leaves. As you move into late spring and summer, watch for the leaves to begin to wilt or die, as this can mean the garlic is ready to harvest.
You can also check your garlic bulbs by gently uncovering them and feeling the bulbs with your hand. If you can feel individual cloves around the outside of the bulb then it is probably ready for harvest. You should also harvest any bulbs that are opening, or that are becoming uncovered as the “paper” around the bulbs begins to crack.
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