Late last winter, I toured a small family run farm which grew garlic and other vegetables for local farmers markets in the Springfield, Mo., region.

Late last winter, I toured a small family run farm which grew garlic and other vegetables for local farmers markets in the Springfield, Mo., region.
Home gardeners too can enjoy fresh garlic from their vegetable gardens, but to time the garlic harvest in June or July next year, it is best to plant garlic slightly after the first frost in October, when the ground is still warm enough to stimulate initial growth for a few weeks, before cold temperatures set in.
The first step is to choose a variety of garlic to be planted in your garden. When initially attempting a garlic garden, it might be beneficial to conduct a small variety trial your first year to determine the variety of garlic which is more adapted to your garden environment before mass planting one named variety.
Some garlic types may only be available from online or mail order companies, therefore the planning process should begin long before the actual planting date.
When choosing garlic varieties to plant, hardneck (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon) varieties will be the most cold hardy, though in Missouri's mild winters, the softneck (Allium sativum var. sativum) varieties can be planted as well, especially when a good layer of mulch is used.
Spanish Roja, Carpathian, Georgian Crystal, Music, Metechi, and Persian Star are hardneck varieties which Dave Trinklein, University of Missouri state horticulture specialist, suggests are cold tolerant and do well in the Midwestern climate of Missouri.
The second step in planting garlic in the fall is preparing the garden site. Make sure your garden soil is loose and well drained, with no areas that hold water which would cause the cloves to rot before they have a chance to sprout above the soil's surface.
For a home gardener, making a raised garden bed is a great way to build up your soil with added organic matter in the form of compost and increase the overall drainage of the garden site. Compost has a natural pH around neutral, which is perfect for garlic which has a pH preference of 6-7.
Because garden soil can dry out quickly in a raised bed garden situation, to prevent damage to the garlic roots, irrigation should be used in the early summer. One to two pounds per 100 square feet of a general all-purpose fertilizer such as a 10-10-10 fertilizer can be used and incorporated in the soil just prior to planting the cloves in the fall.
To prevent winter damage to the cloves from drastic temperature changes which we often have in the winter in the Midwest, the farm I toured in southwestern Missouri kept its garlic plants mulched with straw throughout the winter.
When plotting out the rows and digging the holes for the garlic, make 2-inch deep holes 6 inches apart for best results to limit crowding of the plants. In the spring and summer, a garlic garden requires one to keep up with consistent weeding and mulching.
If you are a gardener like me who loves to use garlic in your kitchen, try planting some in your garden now for a nice crop of fresh garlic next summer.