You want to choose the best bulbs with the biggest cloves to use as your seed garlic. Also, look for the best bulbs with the highest number of large cloves (though sometimes jumbo cloves will have fewer but larger cloves in a head…but that still may be the biggest head and best yield).
You can also select for other characteristics depending on the goals of your planting and breeding program.
A good selection of the best seed in your garlic crop is probably the single most important thing you can do to establish a great strain of your own personal, sustainable garlic supply.
Store your selected heads in a cool, dry location until planting time. Then, move on to the next step.
Separate the cloves.
Heads of garlic should always be kept whole until you are ready to use them—whether that is for cooking or for planting.
Try to keep the paper wrappers intact when you separate the cloves of garlic, and don’t cut or stab into the cloves. However, if some or all of the wrappers do come off, don’t worry. Plant those cloves anyway. Garlic can and will grow without the papery skin on. The “seed” is the white clove, not the paper.
Sanitize your prepared seed garlic cloves.
This is optional but recommended.
Soak your garlic cloves briefly just before you plant them to sanitize them and kill off any spores or diseases that might have been carried in the dirt last year. All it takes is 10 minutes, and all you need is hydrogen peroxide, which you can buy cheaply and easily at the pharmacy or grocery store (or online).
Just pour the peroxide into a bowl, put the prepared, separated cloves in the peroxide, soak for 10 minutes, and then drain.
Now, you can plant your garlic. Or, if you prefer, you can soak the garlic in a liquid fertilizer solution to boost sprouting and to give the bulbs a fertilizer head start.
For a fertilizer soak, you can use an all-purpose liquid fertilizer, fish emulsion fertilizer diluted in water, or kelp meal. Prepare the solution according to the label instructions. Add a teaspoon of baking soda for every gallon of liquid. Put the prepared cloves in the mixture (after the sanitizing soak!). Soak for at least one-half hour and up to 24 hours, then plant as usual.
Plant your homegrown seed garlic!
All that’s left now is to plant your garlic. Plant your homegrown seed garlic the same way you would plant garlic seed that you buy.
Consider rotating your garlic patch to a spot that was not used to grow garlic, onions, or other alliums this year (just to reduce the demand on the nutrients and to reduce the chances of an old problem or disease affecting this new crop). Amend and fertilize your soil before you plant the bulbs—you can’t really do it after the bulbs are planted, and garlic is a heavy feeder that easily depletes the soil, so give it a compost or fertilizer boost before you plant this year’s garlic seed.Plant garlic seed cloves six inches apart (you can do up to nine-inch spacing if you want, but six is adequate for all except the largest jumbo and elephant garlic varieties). Each clove should be planted three inches deep.
Cover and tamp the soil, then spread a layer of straw or other mulch for added winter protection.
When to Buy New Seed Garlic to Revive Your CropWhen bulb size is getting small
When you want to improve the quality of your garlic and seed garlic
When you want to bring in new varieties
When disease or rot is a serious issue – garlic is one of the least prone herbs or vegetables when it comes to diseases and among the least prone to pests and insects, but there are some things that can be a problem. Diseases are especially an issue if it is a widespread problem that affected most of your garlic crop. In that case, it may be time to start fresh with a new seed. If you want to plant some of what you grew that did survive to preserve its disease resistance, it’s best to plant it away from the new garlic for a year or two so it doesn’t spread to the fresh stock.
If you move to a new climate or location – in this case, you’d want to choose new varieties that are recommended for your new location, unless what you grew and have happens to be a variety that is recommended for your new home, too.
When you think your crop could use a general refresher – in this case, you probably don’t have to buy seed garlic to replace your whole crop (except in cases of the issues mentioned above), but you can buy in just a little to boost and reinvigorate your overall crop. Then keep selecting well from the best of the best—whether that grew from the new seed garlic or your old line.
A Few Final Tips for Success with Your Homegrown Seed Garlic
Overplant so there’s enough to go around (for both eating and planting) — if you’re not sure how much garlic to plant, remember that each clove is one whole head; large types have about 5 cloves per head; smaller varieties can have up to 10. The average number of heads per pound is eight bulbs in a pound, but these averages can change by variety).
Be selective in garlic variety, too
Try a few different varieties to find what you like best and see what grows best for you
Plant varieties that are recommended for your location
Invest in good seed stock from the beginning (don’t plant grocery store garlic)
Garlic from local growers and farmers markets can be a good choice if you can talk to them to know how it was grown and treated. be sure it’s not treated to stop sprouting, and the garlic is impressive. This can give you the benefits of locally acclimated, productive seed.
Always choose the best of the best for planting
The longer you grow and plant your own homegrown seed garlic, the more control you will have over your garlic supply. Over time, you can have a completely sustainable supply of garlic without ever having to buy seed garlic again. That’s great news because seed garlic is one of the most expensive types of “seed” you can buy.