Plant Garlic This Fall
Although garlic is thought to have originated in Asia, it has become
an integral ingredient in most every county's cuisine. Garlic is usually
grown for the flavorful bulbs that grow underground, but the green tops
are used much like green onions in some countries. The flowers of the
garlic plant are sterile and so do not produce seed. New plants are grown
from the individual sections of the bulb known as "cloves."
Garlic for planting should be purchased from a reliable garden center
or mail-order catalog. Storage temperature of the dormant garlic affects
the bulbing of the future plants. Temperatures above 77 F may inhibit
bulb formation, so using garlic from the grocery is ill-advised for planting
purposes. Garlic that has been stored at about 40 F for several months
is ideal for starting a new planting.
Garlic can adapt to a wide range of soil types, but it must have a well-drained
soil. Garlic can be planted in either fall or early spring. Bulb formation
is optimum when days are getting longer in late spring. Generally, most
gardeners find it easier to get the garlic planted in fall, since early
spring soils are usually too wet for planting.
A light application of fertilizer, such as one-half pound of 12-12-12
fertilizer per 100 square feet, should be adequate for most soils. Work
the fertilizer into the top 4-5 inches of soil.
Separate the cloves of your "seed" bulb just prior to planting.
The larger cloves tend to yield larger bulbs down the road. Discard the
small center cloves. Plant the cloves 2-3 inches deep with the tip of
the clove pointing upright. Cloves that are planted upside down will generally
produce poor growth or none at all.
Fall-planted garlic should mature the following July or August, as the
tops begin to fall down and dry. Snip off the tops and allow the bulbs
to air dry for about 1 week, out of direct sunlight. Garlic bulbs that
you intend to eat can be stored for several weeks at room temperature.
For longer storage, keep the bulbs cold, as close to 32 F as possible.
If you want to use some of the bulbs for replanting the next crop, store
them between 40 and 50 F.