After I installed my first two raised beds, I went ahead and planted garlic for next year. Planting garlic cloves each fall has to be one of my most favorite things to do as a gardener. I love the fact that it's the last thing to be sown each year and the first to burst from the ground after a long and often hard New England winter. In a way, garlic is like the timekeeper of the vegetable garden. It signals the end of one growing season and the promise (and beginning) of another.
In my opinion, there's no one 'right' way to plant garlic. In fact, I like to keep the process as simple as possible. I don't remove the papery skin or soak my cloves in any kind of sanitizing solution. Instead, I just try to reserve the largest and healthiest looking bulbs for planting each year. So far, this has worked out just fine for me.
In each row, I like to create a long narrow trench about 2 inches deep with my hand (moving it back and forth like a saw) and then place the individual garlic cloves pointy side up at the bottom of the trench about 6 inches apart. When all of my cloves are in place and evenly spaced, I push each clove another inch or two into the soil and then cover up the trench so that the cloves are planted about 4 inches deep. Each row is then spaced about 6 inches apart. When all of my cloves are planted, I'll cover the bed with about 3 inches of straw or dried leaves. And that's basically it.
This year, I'm growing four varieties of hardneck garlic, three of which I've grown in the past with great success - 'Music', 'Pskem River' and 'German Extra Hardy'. With the moves that we've had, I wasn't able to grow garlic last year or this year so I had to order new bulbs for planting. This is my third (and hopefully my last) time purchasing seed garlic from Seed Savers Exchange. While the quality of their stock is always great, I can do without the expense. (Though it would undoubtedly be going to a great organization.) This past summer, I also found Music and other variety called "Red Russian" at our local farmer's market. At $1.50 a bulb, it's a fraction of the cost of buying seed garlic online. Next summer, I think I'll keep an eye out for other varieties worth planting.