Fall to early winter is the optimal time to plant garlic in northern Nevada. Garlic is a member of the Allium or onion family. It thrives in cool weather. Although it can be planted in the spring, the heads develop better with fall planting. Planting now allows good root development allowing plants to start strong in the spring and produce early crops.
Garlic is an easy plant to grow. There are two main types of garlic, softneck and hardneck. Softneck garlic, the kind we usually find in the grocery store is typically grown in milder climates such as California. Softneck varieties produce a higher yield and store longer than hardneck types, but take longer to cure. Hardneck garlic produces larger cloves that are easier to peel and are more cold-hardy than softneck types. Since hardnecks are more cold tolerant, they work well in northern Nevada. Good varieties include: ‘Rocamble,’ ‘German Red’ and ‘Purple Italian Easy Peel.’
Garlic needs full sun and well-drained soil amended with compost or well-aged manure. Avoid planting it where tree or shrub roots might compete. Do not plant it where other Allium/onion family members such as onions, leeks, shallots or chives have grown in the last three years, because of potential disease problems.
To further reduce the possibility of contaminating a garden soil with disease, it is important to buy only certified disease-free garlic “seed” (actually small cloves). Only buy seed cloves that are firm and white, not mushy or brown. To plant push the cloves into fairly dry soil one inch to three inches deep, six inches to 10 inches between rows, and three inches to four inches apart in the row. Each clove will produce an entire bulb next spring.
Mulch the rows with a three-inch to four-inch layer of straw to moderate soil temperatures in the winter and early spring. Remove the mulch completely in the spring to allow the soil to warm faster and then return the mulch after the shoots are about six inches tall to reduce weeds and conserve soil moisture. According to University of Minnesota, garlic shoots can tolerate air temperatures as low as 20 degrees Fahrenheit without damage. Garlic shoots will appear in late winter.
You can also plant garlic in a pot to grow indoors over winter for harvesting the edible greens. Give it a good-sized pot, plenty of sun and water.
Enjoy the fall and plant garlic now.