November or very early spring (March) are the best times to plant garlic in western Washington, according to Washington State University.

If you want to try something different, there are several different types to choose from - non-flowering, top-setting, and elephant garlic.

Most commercially grown varieties are non-flowering, including California Early, and Creole. But many home gardeners prefer top-setting varieties like Italian Silver Skin, or Rocambole garlic, that has a darker or purple-tinged skin.

These top setting varieties produce tiny garlic bulbs at the end of the flowering stalk, as well as a fat underground bulb of cloves. The top-setting bulbs can be harvested in the spring, and have a wonderful rich flavor.

Elephant garlic, actually a type of leek, produces large, mild-tasting cloves, usually fewer per bulb than the true garlics.

For planting, a spot with full sun and good drainage is best. The plants have well-developed root systems, so a raised bed is recommended for heavier soils.

Apply a little lime and a complete fertilizer to the soil, and use the largest cloves you can find. Plant these two inches deep, and about four inches apart, in rows about a foot apart.

In the spring, lightly fertilize the plants and keep them well weeded. As the spring weather dries out, water the plants once every ten days or so, then taper off the watering in late June. For harvest, start checking the bulbs for mature cloves - with an outside skin that's thick and papery - in July.

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-Steve Harbell

Washington State University Cooperative Extension

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