This was our first year growing garlic and the garlic was easy to grow, wasn't bothered by any pests or diseases and even though the seed garlic was a bit expensive upfront, the return justified the initial cost. Seed garlic isn't cheap ($23.70/pound) but once you have your first harvest, you can keep a few of the best bulbs for planting so there's no need to buy any more seed garlic the following year unless you want to try different varieties.The garlic we chose is a softneck variety called "Nootka Rose" that came from High Mowing Seeds.
Garlic prefers full sun and well-drained soil, lots of organic matter, and a PH of around 6.5 to 7.0 (ours is around 6.8 as per a soil test). Planting times for garlic depend on your location - our garlic cloves get planted anywhere from late October to early November. The cloves were planted 2" deep spaced 6" apart with a row spacing of 20", which is a fairly wide spacing ratio. Once planted, the garlic was covered in straw mulch and it snowed within a few weeks which provided even more insulation. If you added a very thick layer of straw or hay it's a good idea to remove (or at least loosen) some of the mulch once the garlic shoots break ground in the spring. The garlic plants didn't break ground until early April and were harvested at the end of July. One pound of seed garlic filled one and a half 4' x 8' beds.
We weren't aware garlic was such a heavy feeder and didn't add any fertilizer when the cloves were planted. When the plants started to sprout the following April, they were fed early on with one application of Fox Farm's All Purpose fertilzer and thereafter with weak solutions of Fox Farm's Big Bloom liquid fertilizer every 2-3 weeks. The liquid fertilizer worked well once the garlic started growing because it doesn't need to be scratched into the soil which might disturb the roots of the garlic. Next year we'll work the granular fertilizer into the soil before planting the garlic. Any other nutrients the garlic needed came from the soil itself. The garlic was kept mulched and well weeded. Garlic needs to be kept consistently watered but it rained quite a bit from April through July so watering wasn't necessary.
We've already ordered next year's garlic from High Mowing Seeds, this time choosing another softneck variety, "Inchellium Red". Garlic does take a bit of time from planting to harvest but it's well worth the wait. Hopefully next year will be as successful as this year. Info about harvesting the garlic can be found in the Garlic Harvest post.
Here's a video about growing and harvesting garlic in chilly Zone 5. It's from my third season growing garlic, and the end of the video shows our garlic drying rack.