JoAnne Skelly: Planting disease-free garlic

Delicious, odoriferous garlic is a staple in many a cook’s kitchen. This cousin of the onion, shallot and leek has been in use for more than 7,000 years for both culinary and medicinal purposes.

If you are a fan of garlic, you may want to plant a crop now through the end of November for early summer harvest. Fall-planted garlic produces bigger, better bulbs than garlic planted in late winter or spring.

Two types of garlic are generally grown in home gardens, hard-neck or soft-neck. Hard-necks are for quick eating because they have a short to medium storage life. Soft-necks store for long periods, work well in garlic braids and are what you usually see at the grocery store.

Since Nevada is the second major garlic producing state after California, it is important that Nevada gardeners plant certified disease-free garlic. This will help prevent potentially economically devastating diseases from being introduced to the state. Don’t plant cloves from the grocery store; they may not only carry plant diseases, they are unlikely to be varieties adapted to our climate.

Locate your garlic patch in full sun where garlic and other allium family members such as leeks, chive, shallots or onions were not planted the previous year. Good soil preparation will encourage high yield.

Garlic grows best in a fertile, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter. Before planting, loosen the soil to a depth of 6- to 8-inches while adding in 4- to 6-inches of compost and 1- to 2-pounds of an all-purpose fertilizer, such as a 10-10-10 or a 16-16-8, per 100 square feet.

Organic gardeners can use bone meal or fish meal in lieu of inorganic fertilizers.

Plant the largest individual cloves pointed end up, 2- to 3-inches deep and 4- to 6-inches apart. Each clove will become a head of garlic. After covering the newly planted cloves with soil, tamp it down gently. Cover the area with a 4-inch layer of mulch such as grass clippings, leaves or straw. Water the area to moisten the soil. Roots will start to develop and grow through the fall and winter as long as the soil isn’t deeply frozen.

Tops will emerge and grow quickly in the spring. Fertilize with a liquid fertilizer such as compost tea, fish emulsion or something inorganic as you see growth developing. Water as needed through the growing season. Harvest in early summer.

JoAnne Skelly is the Carson City/Storey County Extension educator for University of Nevada Cooperative Extension and may be reached at or 887-2252.


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