Sacramento Digs Gardening logo
Sacramento Digs Gardening Article
Your resource for Sacramento-area gardening news, tips and events

Articles Recipe Index Keyword Index Calendar Twitter Facebook Instagram About Us Contact Us

Garlic part of winter solstice tradition

To harvest garlic like this in late June, plant garlic now.
(Photo courtesy Penn State University Cooperative Extension)

Plant cloves on the shortest day for summer harvest

Plant on the shortest day; harvest on the longest. That’s the garlic mantra.

Is the winter solstice really the best day to plant garlic? And summer solstice the peak of harvest?

To develop mature bulbs, garlic needs about six months. In Sacramento and parts of California where hard frosts are rare, that solstice-to-solstice schedule is both easy to remember and effective. It’s a tradition for a reason: It works.

To celebrate today’s first day of winter, plant some cloves and watch them develop through the seasons.

We really love garlic. Americans now eat four times as much garlic per capita as we did in 1980, averaging about 2.5 pounds per person a year. Although garlic has been grown in the United States since the 1700s, it was primarily considered an Asian medicinal herb until the 1920s. That’s when Italian immigrants in California first popularized its culinary assets.

Thanks to Gilroy and other garlic centers, California is The Garlic State, leading the nation in production. Historically, the two most common commercial varieties are the aptly named California Early and California Late, according to UC Davis and state ag reports. Both of these California favorites are “softneck” or silver skin varieties. They rarely produce seed stalks. Instead, they concentrate their energy into making new bulbs.

Love of the stinking rose has brought interest to many other varieties. Creole, the purple-skinned garlic commonly grown in Mexico, is a “hardneck” garlic. Other popular hardnecks include Roja, German Red, Valencia and Continental. Also called top-setting garlic, it produces a strong stem or “scape” (itself an unusual vegetable) and little bulbils (like mini bulbs) on top. Those bulbils can be planted to produce new garlic plants.

Besides adding flavor to summer meals, garlic plants also act as a natural pest deterrent. But they can be finicky. Avoid planting garlic in the same spot where onions, garlic or other alliums have grown in the past two or three years; that cuts down on potential pest problems and other issues.

Here are more tips for garlic-growing success:

* Garlic needs good drainage. It can’t stand soggy feet. Plant in raised beds or containers for best results. Add a few scoops of well-aged compost before planting.

* Plant the individual cloves, not a whole bulb. Break apart a bulb within 24 hours of planting; that preserves the piece of “foot” at the base of the clove that will form new roots.

* Plant the cloves 2 inches deep with the pointy end up, spaced 6 to 8 inches apart. Water once, then let rest. They’ll need water once a week through January and early February; usually, rain will take care of that irrigation.

* After the cloves sprout, water once or twice a week. Avoid soggy soil (that prompts rot), but keep soil from completely drying out.

* Garlic doesn’t like competition; remove any weeds around the young plants.

* For late birds, garlic can be planted in spring for late summer or fall harvest.

For lots more on growing great garlic, visit the Vegetable Research and Information Center resource page from the UC Cooperative Extension:


0 comments have been posted.

Newsletter Subscription

Sacramento Digs Gardening to your inbox.

Taste Fall! E-cookbook

Muffins and pumpkin

Find our fall recipes here!

Local News

Ad for California Local

Thanks to our sponsor!

Summer Strong ad for

Dig In: Garden Checklist

For week of Dec. 10:

Take advantage of these dry but crisp conditions. It’s time to get out the rake!

* Rake leaves away from storm drains and keep gutters clear.

* Fallen leaves can be used for mulch and compost. Chop up large leaves with a couple of passes with a lawn mower.

* Prune non-flowering trees and shrubs while they’re dormant. Without their foliage, trees are easier to prune.

* Rake and remove dead leaves and stems from dormant perennials.

* Make sure to take frost precautions with new transplants and sensitive plants. Mulch, water and cover tender plants in the late afternoon to retain warmth.

* Succulent plants are at particular risk if temperatures drop below freezing. Don’t water succulents before frost; cover instead. Use cloth sheets, not plastic. Make sure to remove coverings during the day.

* Clean and sharpen garden tools before storing for the winter.

* Brighten the holidays with winter bloomers such as poinsettias, amaryllis, calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies and primroses.

* Keep poinsettias in a sunny, warm location. Water thoroughly. After the holidays, feed your plants monthly so they'll bloom again next December.

* Just because it rained doesn't mean every plant got watered. Give a drink to plants that the rain didn't reach, such as under eaves or under evergreen trees. Also, well-watered plants hold up better to frost than thirsty plants.

* Plant garlic (December's the last chance -- the ground is getting cold!) and onions for harvest in summer.

* Bare-root season begins. Plant bare-root berries, kiwifruit, grapes, artichokes, horseradish and rhubarb. Beware of soggy soil. It can rot bare-root plants.

Taste Spring! E-cookbook


Find our spring recipes here!

Taste Summer! E-cookbook


Find our summer recipes here!