It's time to plant garlic for a harvest next July. Garlic does best in the Portland area when it is planted in October or November.
Preparation of the bed
The soil should be loose and weed free. Garlic should not be planted in an area where only grass has been grown in the past. If that's all you have, use a container that is at least 8 inches deep this year, and prepare a spot for next year with a summer cover crop. If you have good garden soil, spreading about an inch of compost on the soil and digging it in will provide all the nutrients that garlic will need to establish good roots and send up a few healthy leaves. Over-feeding in the fall will result in a plant that grows too fast and is vulnerable to frost.
Break the head of garlic into individual cloves just before planting. Make sure you don't have double cloves, All the cloves in a hardneck head can be planted. Don't bother with the tiny inner cloves of softnecks, unless you want "garlic scallions" in the spring.
Push the cloves into the ground so that the top is about an inch below the surface. Four inch spacing is ideal for full size garlic and two inch spacing for garlic scallions. Make sure that the cloves are planted right side up with the pointed end at the top and the root plate at the bottom.
Care of the garlic patch
The garlic will emerge from late November into February. If there is a deep frost, the tops may freeze, but don't worry, the roots will be fine. Keep the patch free of weeds.
At the end of February, when we start to have more daylight, feed each plant with a pinch of blood meal. Do that again in mid-April.
As long as it continues to rain (which it will) through the end of May, the garlic does not need to be irrigated.
Harvest and Drying
Harvest the garlic when most of the leaves have dried and turned brown. Dig it, don't try to pull it. Leave the tops on until the garlic is thoroughly dry, at least three weeks after harvest. Tie it in bundles and hang it in a dry airy spot out of direct sunlight. Save the biggest and best heads for your next garlic planting.