Caring for garlic plants is relatively easy as long as you are aware of what will benefit and what will harm them. The most important thing to remember is that garlic plants do not deal well with competition. Therefore it is important that they are planted in an area where it will not have to battle to simply obtain its daily nutrients. This also means that you will have prevented the growth of weeds around your garlic. You can do this by weeding on a weekly basis. It is recommended that you keep up with weeds because, as they become older, their root systems become more established, making it more difficult to pull them from the ground. Extensive root systems also mean that they are requiring and taking more away from garlic. If you use any tools to weed, be careful not to harm the garlic bulbs below. Garlic can be sensitive to this type of activity.
You won't have to worry too much about pests bothering your plants. In fact, garlic is generally planted around vegetable gardens to help to ward off common pests. However, eelworms, the same pests that bother onions, will also bother garlic. These types of pests will attack the root and the bulb. To help prevent this, you will have to inspect the cloves of garlic before you plant them. Crop rotation can also help to alleviate the problem.
There are also some general rules you should follow in order to ensure a decent harvest. First, when preparing your soil, it should have at least two inches of organic material worked into the soil. You should never allow the soil to dry out when you are growing garlic, as this will lead to it becoming deformed. Keep in mind that garlic requires at least an inch of water a week. Therefore, if your area receives less, watering accordingly. Also, the richer the soil is, the larger the cloves will be. It is suggested that you apply a general fertilizer beginning in May and continuing throughout the growing season. When feeding your plants, be careful not to give them too much nitrogen. The soil should have a balanced content of nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Keep the soil loose. Small cloves will be produced if the soil is too compact. In the summer, if your plants begin to form flowers, cut these back. This will encourage the bulbs to put their energy towards developing the bulbs. You should never water your plants when harvesting time approaches. This will cause your garlic to have less of a shelf life due to its thin wrapper.
Timing your harvest is also important. If you harvest garlic too early will result in small and tasteless garlic. Garlic that is harvested too late will become soft and bruised and have a reduced shelf life. Generally, you will begin harvesting when a third of the tops leaves have begun to brown. After you have pulled them from the ground, you must allow them to cure in a dry location before storing.