Answer: Garlic is propagated vegetatively from the clove. One clove produces one bulb. The size of both the clove and the bulb is an important consideration when selecting planting stock. Grade your garlic for both size and quality. Bulbs should be firm without soft spots or defects and the cloves creamy white without any discolorations. Discard anything that appears diseased, small, soft, damaged, or discolored. This is time-consuming, but important.
Crack each bulb into individual cloves (referred to as “popping”). Plant cloves with the root end down. Where winters are mild, plant cloves one inch deep; where winters are severe, put them two to four inches deep. In general, plant the biggest and best cloves from the best bulbs. They will generate the biggest bulbs. This will also build up bigger seed stock over time.
Mulch is used frequently in organic garlic production. It helps improve winter survival, suppress weeds, conserve soil moisture, and prevent soil erosion. It can also increase yields by keeping the soil cooler. Garlic stops growing when the soil temperature increases to above 90°F.
Garlic will have no trouble pushing through an inch or more of mulch. Mulch is typically used by operations without mechanical harvest, as it will make harvesting by machine difficult or impossible. Garlic is often planted in raised beds for ease of digging, good soil drainage, and reduction of soil compaction.
Clove spacing of 6 inches by 12 inches is best, except for some varieties of the Porcelain cultivars and elephant garlic, which require a spacing of 12 inches by 12 inches to produce the largest bulbs.
Ready to learn more? Check out the ATTRA publication Garlic: Organic Production. This publication addresses most aspects of organic garlic production, including seed sources, organic fertility management, pest management and harvesting and storage. Marketing and economic considerations, including enterprise budgets for organic garlic production, are also addressed.
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