Garlic is a member of the Allium family and fall is the perfect time to start them in your garden! Garlic bulbs consist of multiple cloves, and each clove has the capability of growing a new bulb. Your garlic cloves have been separated and had the heavier skins removed. You can leave the flimsiest outer skin on it to protect them from mold. It is still ok to plant if this is missing.
Garlic can be planted in the ground or in containers, but planting an overwintering plant in a container can be difficult. Start your garlic in the ground for best results. Pick an area with fertile, well-draining soil that gets at least 6-8 hours of sun in winter (this may include a spot that is shadier in summer due to leaves on a tree). Your spot should not have housed any member of the allium family (garlic, chives, onions, allium flowers, shallots, leeks, scallions) for at least a year. Work in compost or manure and a balanced fertilizer to your site and remove any rocks in the top 6” of soil. Plant each clove individually with the pointy end up, at least 6” apart. Rows should be 1’ apart. Your cloves do not need to be buried deeply, 1-2” tops. Firm the soil around it and water in. You can also start your cloves in shallow water in a sunny window. If you go this route, distilled water is best to start with, if you use tap water, you’ll need to change it regularly. Green should appear within a week, but starting in water can also lead to early rot. Cloves could also be started on the counter, but are more unpredictable when left sitting out, and will use more energy to start themselves.
As the weather cools, add up to 6” of mulch to the bed. In the north, this can be done immediately when planting. In the south, you can add 2-3” of mulch as growth occurs, since the plants will be green all winter and will develop strong roots. During the winter, you’ll only need to water once per week or so, if it hasn’t rained/snowed in awhile.
Garlic will not be ready to pick until next summer. Wait until the plant leaves stat to turn brown and flop over (just like with onions). Then carefully dig up the bulbs with the stems still attached. You will need to leave the garlic bulbs for 2-3 weeks to thoroughly dry. You can leave them outside in a shady area or on a porch with good air circulation. If there is rain predicted, bring the garlic inside. Once the roots dry off, you can knock off excess roots, dirt, and cut the stem a few inches above the bulb. Do not wash your bulbs or break them apart, as this will cause them to sprout sooner. You can store your garlic in a cool, airy spot on a screen or slatted shelf. Use sprouted garlic first. You can even save some cloves for planting next fall!