The old adage (is that a thing people still say?) is that you plant garlic on Halloween and harvest on the 4th of July. Well, lucky for us here in Virginia, we haven't missed the garlic planting boat just because spooky season is behind us.
Garlic is a low effort, low maintenance, easy plant to start with and now is the perfect time to plop some cloves in the ground and wait (honestly that's the hardest part).
I started my garlic journey with a few organic cloves from the grocery store (and you can too).
Selecting your garlic: Garlic is divided into two main types: softneck and hardneck, which has a stiff stem, or scape, that grows up through the center of the bulb. The scape, which also is edible, is harvested in the spring before the bulb is ready and has a mild garlic flavor. Overall, softneck is the type that does better in the South. We, in Coastal Virginia, are in the transitional zone for garlic and can experiment with both types. Which means that grabbing some from the store and hoping for the best is totally a valid strategy. Opt for organic garlic, though, as sometimes conventional garlic is sprayed with a growth inhibitor to stop sprouting. That obviously won't work here.
What does your garlic need? Not a whole lot other than dirt and sun. It does great in well-draining sandy or loamy soils, but if you add some good compost, it can do pretty well in heavy clay soil too. No garden space? No worries. You also can grow garlic in containers at least a foot deep, but the bulbs will be small. You know what, though? Small homegrown garlic is better than no homegrown garlic, that's what I say.
The spot does need to have full sun, and the garlic will be in for the long haul, so make sure you can dedicate this space to letting the garlic do its thing for the next 8* months or so (*we can do some creative harvesting and replanting in the spring but THAT, my friends, is a different blog). Dig a hole about 4 inches deep. You're going to carefully separate the cloves from the bulb right before you plant, keeping the papery coverings intact on each clove.
Place each clove in the hole with the pointy-side up (this part is key), then cover with soil, spacing about 6 to 8 inches apart. Water well after planting, and mulch to protect the bulbs from cold, retain moisture and keep down weeds. That's it, that's the whole thing (there will be some minor "work" in the late spring- ie harvesting and eating the scapes of hardneck varieties). Nice work here; you did it.