Garlic should be planted in Maine sometime between the middle of September and the end of October – time enough for the roots to develop before the ground freezes, but not so much time that the garlic sprouts and the winter cold damages the plant.
Hard-neck garlic, also called stiff neck, is the type you want to grow in Maine, and there are many varieties to choose from. You can buy it from garden catalogs, farm markets and seed stores. Soft-neck garlic, the kind usually available in supermarkets, can’t handle Maine winters.
If you grew garlic last year, you harvested in mid-July to early August and let it dry for a month. Save the largest bulbs to plant, because larger cloves usually produce larger bulbs. Use the smaller ones for cooking.
Garlic wants full sun and rich but well-drained soil with a neutral pH. Ideally you should get a soil test, but if you don’t, add some lime because most Maine soil is acidic. Add compost and balanced fertilizer, too, and loosen the mixture with a spading fork.
Plant the garlic clove 5 to 6 inches deep, pointed end up, with at least 2 inches of soil covering the point, and about 6 inches apart.
Cover the garlic with mulch. I usually use pine needles or chopped-up oak leaves because I have a lot of them, but straw is traditional. Remove the mulch in the spring and fertilize again as soon as the garlic sprouts – probably you’ll find sprouts when you remove the mulch unless you do it really early – and again a few weeks later. Cut the scapes in late June or early July and dig the garlic in late July or early August, and then do it all over again.
– TOM ATWELL