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How to Grow Garlic

Planting garlic. 4000 cloves took about two hours for two people.

Planting garlic. 4000 cloves took about two hours for two people. Photo by Dwight Sipler from Stowe, Massachusetts

Garlic is an excellent herb to grow in your garden. It is a relatively carefree plant and has few pests or diseases. Because the bulb is located so close to the surface, only shallow cultivation can be practiced. So plant in an area as free of weeds as possible. A mulch of leaves or other free of weeds seeds will help to garlic grow hassle free.

Most planting is done in October. Garlic planted too late in the fall will not have good root growth and will get off to a slow start in the spring. The site where the garlic is planted should be in full sun and in a light, humus-rich soil that drains well. Dig well, add compost (lots of it if your soil is heavy) and do not compact it by stepping on it. Fertilize with organic fertilizer when spring growth starts. Water as needed and keep weeded. The soil should not be too acidic or too fertile. Too much nitrogen causes heavy top growth and, especially in the spring, delays bulb formation. If your PH is below 5.5, the addition of wood ash or dolomite lime helps.

Garlic is covered - notice the Brussels sprouts still growing along the side.

Garlic is covered – notice the Brussels sprouts still growing along the side. Photo by Dwight Sipler from Stowe, Massachusetts.

Break apart the bulb without peeling off any of the skins. With the pointy side up, plant the individual cloves 4” apart and about 4-6” deep as garlic likes moisture. In good soils, this should result in fatter, larger bulbs. Largest cloves will make largest bulbs.

In early summer, garlic sends up a flower stalk known as a “scape.” To maximize bulb size cut off the scapes (the curling tip) just as they begin to curl during in summer. (Garlic scapes are tasty and edible, and can be sauteed or made into pesto, dried and powdered and are great with eggs and in soups).

Garlic, late spring, Bradford, Vermont. Photo by N. R. Mallery

Garlic, late spring, Bradford, Vermont. Photo by N. R. Mallery

Garlic matures between the end of July and early August. Avoid overwatering for a few weeks before harvest to allow the bulbs to cure. Harvest when ½-¾ of the leaves have turned yellow (depending on the variety). Try to avoid puncturing the bulbs when digging them out. Remove any dirt by hand, leaving as much of the skin intact as possible. Cure the bulbs in a single layer in a warm spot for 1 week to 10 days. Then clean them off again and cut off the stems and leaves of the hardneck varieties. If you are going to braid the leaves of the softneck, clean them up now.

Store in a cool, dry, well-ventilated space. DO not store in the refrigerator. This will induce sprouting, changing the garlic’s texture and flavor.

Harvested garlic. Photo by dailypead.com.

Harvested garlic. Photo by dailypead.com.

Set aside your best bulbs for planting in the fall. Use any damaged bulbs first and store the best.

Some gardeners have been hit with White Rot that causes black spots and decay on the bulbs. It is spread in infected soil and water and is very persistent in the soil. Flooding the bed for 4 weeks in the spring may kill it. The best way to avoid it is not to leave decaying alliums in the ground and by using a strict 4 year rotation.

Courtesy of West Coast Seeds www.westcoastseeds.com

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