Approximately 170 bulbs of Music.
I've harvested our main eating garlic that was being unduly harassed by leek moth a few weeks early. Hopefully, I hit the right balance between maturity and lack of pest induced bulb damage for good storage. The above garlic was all from a local, nursery source of the variety Music. I also have a mixed variety patch of planting garlic that came from my old garden. I've been selecting them for a couple of years and they seem much healthier so they'll stay in the ground for now. Among the adapative pressures was leek moth which might be the reason.
Even kids love garlic - youngest hugging harvest.
You can exclude leek moth by using row covers. I've noticed that plants growing in areas that are overgrown with other plants (yes, I mean weeds) suffer less damage so interplanting might be an interesting strategy to explore.
How to Grow Garlic Easy Style
Seed Garlic - Source Locally
This is the time of year to start thinking about your glorious garlic harvest next year. Keep an eye peeled for local garlic festivals. Most market gardeners have copped on to the fact that people buy to plant as well as eat so sell bags of seed garlic too (yes, it all about packaging). Don't be shy about asking whether your supplier suffers any disease or pest issues in their fields. I am pretty sure I first got leek moth from a supply of planting garlic. Our mini farm came with it this time. Examine and discard any bulbs with feeding damage or mold issues.
Yaaaaaaank! This is a great crop to grow with kids as it is easy to plant, grows without too much problem and is pretty easy to harvest. Some kids might enjoy fresh garlic bread afterward too or just the bread... but at least they will get some joy out of harvesting even if they dont' want to eat it on purpose.
Around These Parts, Plant in the Fall
Plant out seed garlic around the same time you plant spring bulbs for the best yield around here. Just like other 'root' crops, they'll grow best in lighter soils but garlic is pretty adaptable. Any normal veggie garden soil will do. You can also plant out those little bulbils that develop on the end of the flowering stalks called scapes but they'll take a few years before producing anything sizeable.
I space each garlic clove with centres about 4-6 inches apart, several inches deep. They'll put down roots in the fall and be up first thing in the spring, often before the snow has completely melted.
Works well in a permenantly mulched bed
I've never had to water or feed garlic but ammending the bed with compost, green manure or the like and watering when needed along with mulching to hold in fertility might give you prize winning bulbs. So far, I've been happy with yields without much fuss other than mulching to keep out the weeds. This is one veggie that works well in a lasagna / continutallly mulched beds.
Depending on what ails alliums in your area, you may need to watch for fungal diseases, viruses or pests like the aforementioned leek moth. I like to examine plants for feeding tunnels and then squish any cocoons and larvae I find. If you enjoy scary stories then check out the OMAFRA link to garlic growing with its usual list of problems.
Eat the scapes as an early garlic treat
You don't have to snap off the scapes but it helps to redivert energy into bulb formation. They also taste great in pesto, fried in butter, pickled or just raw cut in salad if you like the sharp garlic taste. You could leave them on to harvest the baby bulbils that form on top. Some people even use these to sprout in the winter as well as to increase planting stock.
Tada! I love taking pictures of veggies in my kids hands. It's all about scale.
You can braid softneck types but around here, we normally grow hardnecks. The difference is obvious if you've ever grown garlic. Hardnecks have a hard neck. Besides, I like to flame the foliage to get rid of any leek moth that I may have overlooked and to help control disease. You could try hot composting in a sealed plastic bag or in an active compost pile or discard.
Kids cleaning up the garlic. They had this whole storyline about hair cutting and skin cleaning going on as they worked. We did have 170 bulbs so after the first five minutes, the excitement of just staring at garlic wore off.
Store garlic in a dry, airy place to scare away vampires and improve longevity.
The garlic needs to be cured which just means dried for a couple days before storage. This is best done in a dry, airy local. Afterwards, store as you would normally garlic. I tend to peel off the outer layer to reveal a clean bulb beneath but be careful not to take off too much protective skin.
These guys also have instructions for drying garlic which would be great for those damaged bulbs and to extend the time you have homegrown garlic.
If you forget to harvest a bulb, it'll split into a bunch of crowded mini bulbs. You could try to grow some feral garlic though I think they'd suffer from too much competition to perform at their best. You could pull up your second year mini bulbs for replanting in the fall too!
P.S. Elephant garlic is actually a bulbing leek and I imagine that leek moth would LOVE it.
More on different varieties of garlic
Boundary Garlic Farm on Growing Garlic - lots of great tips
Garlic Festival in Carp and the rest of the calendar