organic material is ideal.
We prefer a milder garlic at our house, we have been growing and saving bulbs of Legacy and Music varieties for several years now. Legacy is an heirloom variety, brought to Canada by German settlers in the 1800's. It is moderately spicy when first harvested, dries and store well and mellows with storage. I find it particularly good for roasting. The picture at the top of this post is some of our Legacy garlic. The other variety we grow is Music. Music produces big bulbs of white garlic. Although Music is a thin skinned variety, many layers of thin skins, it stores exceptionally well when dried immediately after harvesting. Music is a mellow flavoured variety and I prefer it for flavouring sauces. This year we are going to be trying a new variety, Siberian; It is a a spicier variety at harvest but also grows milder with storage. It is supposed to be very hardy, and has a darker burgundy coloured skin. We are trying it here this year because I am slightly worried about the typical freeze thaw cycle of an average winter in Digby county.
Regardless of the variety of hard neck variety you choose, now is the time to select a location for your garlic bed. It must be dry, garlic does not do well in wet. Planting of fall garlic should be done about three weeks before ground freeze up. Now in Nova Scotia this could be anywhere from early November to early January. We usually plant the last week of September; but you need to keep an eye on the long range weather forecast. If it is for a prolonged warm spell delay for a few days, if it is going to turn cold plant earlier. You are trying to achieve a period of good root development but you don't want any green to emerge. Now is the perfect time to till you beds and plant a quick growing cover crop which will germinate in 7 - 14 days. We use buckwheat. This will then be worked in as green manure before planting your garlic.
Garlic can be planted in single, double, or multi row beds. Ideally you should have 4 - 8 inches between bulbs on all sides. The larger spacing for the elephant varieties. If you want higher yield per square footage, and smaller bulbs and cloves are acceptable then you can stick to the smaller spacing.
You can save a portion of your harvest for planting. When choosing bulbs for seed, save the bulbs with the biggest cloves. Individual clove size is of more importance in determining the resulting bulb size than the size of the bulb it came from. In English: Bigger cloves equal bigger bulbs. Small cloves, even from large overall bulbs, will produce smaller bulbs. So save your seed from bulbs which have big cloves. Dry your garlic as soon as it has been picked. Do not separate the bulbs until you are ready to plant the following year.
When planting time has arrived, separate the cloves being careful not to damage the cloves. Roots sprout from the bottom of the clove, the not pointy end. When you separate the cloves they should pull cleanly away from the basal plate, the piece where the roots of that bulb grew from, if part of the basal plate comes off with a clove just gently flick or pull it off of the clove. Plant your cloves pointy side up, with the tip being approximately 2 inches below the soil. We have found anywhere between 2 - 3 inches is fine.
After you have planted your cloves, you must mulch. This will help protect the cloves from early frosts and slow down the emergence of green shoots if the weather stays warm. The rule of thumb here is about 4 inches. Garlic is one of those plants which suffer heavily from competition, so weeding is imperative.. One note of caution; if you are having a wet year, do not mulch again as garlic will rot quickly.
This should get you through the planning and planting of your garlic crop for this year. Remember: hard neck varieties for fall planting, large cloves with a minimum of 4 inches between bulbs, a minimum of two inches of soil between tip of clove and top of soil, in loose well drained soil, with four inches of mulch on top. Next spring we will talk about caring for the growing garlic, to cut or not to cut the scrapes, pest and disease control, watering and then harvesting and preparing the garlic for storage.
As always, I'll be happy to answer any questions, just post them in the comments. Have a great day everybody!