Califonia Bountiful

Gardening: Garlic in the garden

Nov./Dec. 2010 California Country magazine

Plant now for summer harvest.

Late fall, early winter is time to plant garlic, a tradition in my garden for more than 20 years. We save some of the best garlic from the previous harvest to plant between November and December.

It was early in my gardening education when I stumbled upon a garlic variety called Chet's Italian Red in a nursery catalog—it sounded pretty. At the time I didn't know softneck garlic—the most common kind—from hardneck from elephant. Luckily, Chet's Red is a softneck type, the easiest sort to grow. It produces wonderfully, never goes to seed and tastes great.

Plant garlic in loose soil with plenty of compost where there's lots of sun. I have a raised bed with hardware cloth on the bottom so gophers and moles can't get in to wreak havoc on the crop. A 4-by-4-foot bed can yield about 75 garlic heads.

Break the cloves away from the head of the garlic. Don't peel them. Use only the biggest cloves. Plant each clove pointed-side up, 2 inches deep and 4 inches apart. (Or you can plant them closer together and harvest the extras early for green garlic.) Each clove will produce a head of garlic.

Harvest is roughly the third week of June, depending on the weather. Garlic needs several weeks of hot weather at the end of the season to produce bulbs. The leaves will yellow as the garlic is ready to harvest. Harvest too soon and you'll have tiny bulbs. Pull a plant or two if in doubt. If you wait too long, the cloves will separate and won't store as long.

Oh, if you want to impress your friends who think you're growing onions, tell them the way to differentiate garlic from onions at a glance is easy: Garlic has flat foliage while onions have round, hollow leaves.

Gardening to-do list for November/December


  • Plant calendula, Iceland poppies, pansies, snapdragons, columbine, coral bells, coreopsis and phlox.
  • Stop fertilizing roses.
  • Winterize your garden: Cut rose stems back a third, prune weak branches from trees and shrubs, leave last blooms on roses to encourage dormancy, rake leaves and divide overcrowded perennials.
  • For larger blooms, remove excess camellia flowers.


  • Plant peonies, cyclamen, dianthus, bleeding heart and daisies.
  • Bare root plants arrive at nurseries and include roses, shade trees, fruit trees, berries, vines, artichokes, asparagus and horseradish.
  • Spray roses with horticultural oil to kill eggs of overwintering pests like aphids and mites.
  • Spray peaches and nectarines with lime-sulphur or copper sulfate to control leaf curl.
  • Prune chrysanthemums back to about 6 to 8 inches after bloom.

Pat Rubin is a longtime gardener and garden writer. Send questions or comments to her at

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