Garlic plants are started from bulbs, or heads (composed of a cluster of cloves), purchased from a garden center or nursery. Although easy to grow and very hardy, garlic performs best in milder, dry climates. Garlic is planted in the fall (in cold regions) or early spring for best development before the summer harvest season. Ample and consistent water is needed for the first five months of growth, as well as full sun. There are many varieties, in two major groups: the so-called soft necks, often found in the grocery store, and hard necks, also known as rocambole.
Divide the garlic heads into individual cloves and plant about one to three inches deep and four to eight inches apart in rich soil. In cold climates, apply a winter mulch of straw for protection, but remove it early as the weather warms. Garlic is virtually free from pests and diseases. The greens may be lightly clipped in late spring, and used as you would scallions. Garlic is ready for harvest when the plant tops turn brown. Dig the heads carefully, brush off excess soil, and allow them to dry on a screen in the shade. To prevent the bulbs from rotting, retain several inches of dried stalk. Store garlic in a cool, dry area (do not refrigerate).
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