Garlic is one of the easiest things to grow in the Carolinas. It is as easy as breaking up a head of garlic into 10-20 individual cloves and sticking them in the soil. Once they flop over in the spring, you pull them up, dry them and you have garlic. Easy.
Garlic should be planted in the fall. Anytime in October or November will bring good results. A head of garlic purchased at the grocery store will work fine, however there are many other varieties of garlic with different sizes, color and taste and it is fun to grow something that cannot be found in the grocery store.
Break the head of garlic into individual cloves, leaving the skin on the cloves. They should be planted four inches apart at about an inch deep. Make sure the cloves are right side up to make sure the plant grows straight. The pointy end goes up, and the part of the clove that was attached to the others goes down. Garlic can be planted in rows a foot apart.
The garlic will sprout in a week or two and grow slowly through the winter. The plant will continue to grow through the spring, and by about the time we are ready to plant frost sensitive plants in the garden in April, the garlic will be ready to come out. Garlic is ready to harvest when the outer leaves start to turn yellow. I wait until the stalk flops over, then I gently dig up the bulb.
When you harvest garlic, do not wash off the bulb, but gently brush off any soil. Garlic will need to dry out for a week or two in a warm, shady place with good air movement. When the neck is dry and the skin papery the garlic can be stored by cutting off the tops or braiding them together. Garlic will store for 6-8 months in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area.
Onions can be grown by planting seeds, transplants, or sets. Using transplants or sets will reduce the growing time in the garden but are more expensive than seeds. Transplants are young onion plants that are already about 6 inches tall. These should be planted in early spring and will yield onions later in the spring. Onion sets are small bulbs that when planted will grow into larger onions. Sets are expensive and tricky to grow in our part of the Carolinas. If sets are planted too late in the fall, they can be damaged in cold weather. If they are planted too early in the spring, they can bolt in warmer weather and produce a seed stalk instead of a large bulb.
Onion seeds should be planted in the fall. October is a good time to plant them, as they will sprout and grow slowly through the fall and winter. Plant the seeds in row about ½ inch deep. As the plants grow, thin them until they are four inches apart. You can eat the thinned onions as green onions, or plant them elsewhere as transplants.
Onions are ready to harvest when 3/4ths of the tops have fallen over. Gently lift the bulbs out of the ground. Cut the stalks an inch or so above the bulb and let dry in a shaded are before storage.