Creating a Life of Plenty

Garlic, Garlic and More Garlic

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I planted garlic yesterday morning. It was a cool fall morning just after a night of rain. The soil was damp and beginning to cool, and according to the farmers almanac, it was a good day to plant.

Soil Preparation: Garlic will grow under a wide variety of soil conditions. However, normally garlic prefers free draining loam with lots of organic matter. So my favorite soil mix with 30 soil/30 peat/ 30/ sand 10/ compost will work really well with garlic bulbs.

Under most conditions, garlic does best when planted in the fall. The timing of fall planting should be such that the roots have a chance to develop and the tops do not break the surface before winter. Planting in the spring in our part of the country will produce mixed results.
Hardneck garlics need to go through a cold period to trigger sprouting. If your soil temperatures stay warm, store the garlic in a cool, dry place, 45 – 50°F, for about three weeks before planting.

Shortly before planting break the bulbs apart into cloves. This is called ‘cracking’. The cloves are attached to the basal plate, the plate that the roots grow from. When you crack the bulb each clove should break away cleanly, leaving an intact ‘footprint’ on the basal plate.

Set aside the very small cloves to eat soon, to make into pickles, to dry, or to plant tightly together for eating in the spring, like green onions. Each larger clove will produce a good sized bulb by the end of the growing season. The smallest cloves require just as much space, care and attention in the garden and produce significantly smaller bulbs.

If you separate the garlic cloves as close to planting time as possible, preferably within 24 hours, the root nodules won’t dry out and the garlic will be able to set roots quickly.

Planting Garlic
I plant garlic in a square foot garden, to grow properly in this setting, the cloves should be planted 4 or 5 per square foot.

It is important to plant hard neck garlic with the top (pointed end) of the clove up, at least two inches below the surface. Planting garlic is like planting shallots or other bulbs, the garlic should be planted twice as deep as the size of the clove.

When you have planted the garlic you can cover it with a layer of mulch if you wish. Mulching conserves moisture, moderates soil temperatures and inhibits weeds.

Watering Garlic
Garlic requires fairly even soil moisture during its early growth and then no additional moisture during the last few weeks. Mulch is one way of maintaining an even moisture regime. Not enough moisture means that garlic does not develop a full sized bulb. Over watering results in garlic with poor keeping qualities – poor wrappers, burst skins and mold.

Harvesting Garlic
A few weeks before harvesting stop watering the garlic. Different growers have different rules of thumb regarding the best time to harvest:

· when the lower leaves are half to three-quarters brown
· when the plants are 40% brown, 60% green.

The dying back of the leaves is only an approximate indicator. Inspect a few bulbs in the ground by carefully scraping away the dirt. Pull the garlic from the ground when the bulb has reached a good size and before the wrappers begin to deteriorate or the bulbs begin to split open. If a bulb is not well-wrapped, and the skins on the cloves are not intact, the garlic will not keep well.

Learning exactly when to stop watering and when to harvest is a matter of judgment that comes with experience. But it is pretty easy to tell, so don’t be discouraged…get out and get your hands dirty by planting garlic this weekend!

Happy Gardening!

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