1-3 days before planting the garlic bulbs can be taken apart into cloves. This is when you make sure each of the cloves is solid and in good shape. If they are soft then they are better off not planted as this can mean that they are dehydrated and leave more possibility for mold and other problems later down the road. The skins of the cloves should be left on but it is fine to plant them anyways if they come off when you are breaking them apart.
Cloves have a basal plate at the bottom of the bulb. This is what will actually become the stem of the clove as it turns into the garlic plant. If this is damaged there is greater possibility that it will not grow well or will lead to garlic rot. Also be careful not to throw the garlic into the box or container as this could also possibly damage the clove and cause bruises. The general rule is to plant the best ones possible first and then if you only have a few or want to plant some more then you can plant the rest of them.
It is also at this time that you would treat for mold or pests. See GARLIC PESTS AND DISEASES.
Garlic must be planted with the basal plant down. This is very important because if they are planted upside down will be less vigorous and deformed. The larger the clove is generally means the larger the bulb will be at harvest. We plant 2-4” into the ground and approximately 6-8” apart with six rows on an elevated bed and then cover and pat down with soil.
Do not plant cloves from the grocery store. They may be garlic that is not used to your climate and many of the supermarket varieties can also be treated so that they last longer on the shelf. Instead, get cloves from a mail order seed company or a local nursery.