Growing garlic is one of those farming skills that can be intimidating at first but becomes easier with time and practice. Hopefully, this article will take you step-by-step through the planting process, so that you can get started with garlic farming this fall.
When to Plant garlic
Fall is traditionally the most common time to plant garlic in most regions. A good rule of thumb is to not plant it until after the autumnal equinox in late September. Like onions and other plants in the Allium family, garlic is sensitive to daylength and matures during the longest days of summer; Fall planting gives it a jumpstart on the growing season and it will be one of the first things to come up in your garden next spring.
How to Plant Garlic
Garlic is easy to grow, but the soil needs to be prepared in a particular way if you want the best-sized bulbs. The soil should be rich and well drained with a pH of 6.4-6.8 and you should add 2-3 inches of compost and manure before planting.
Use quality seed garlic and plant several different varieties to make sure at least one does well. Separate the cloves within 48 hours before planting to keep them from drying out. The largest cloves will produce the biggest bulbs. Plant individual cloves, with peel intact, pointy end up, 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart.
Mulch your garlic bed with seedless straw mulch. The straw will pack down over the winter so that by spring, it is only 2 inches deep. Keep weeds at bay and make sure to plant your garlic in the fall.
Early next spring, you garlic will be ready to grow, sending up tiny green shoots as soon as the ground thaws.
Caring for Garlic Plants
Feed plants with liquid fish fertilizer every two weeks from spring until approximately June 1st. Pay attention to watering during the stage when bulbs form in summer and aim for an inch a week including rainfall.
The best time to plant hard neck garlic is around the summer solstice. It should be cut off its scape to encourage it to make bulbs instead of seed.
Leave one or two flower stalks standing to help you decide when to harvest your garlic. About four weeks before you plan on harvesting, the wrappers will begin to dry out. After July, don’t water any more. Doing this can cause water stains or even mold on the wrapper.
Garlic Pests and Diseases
Garlic can host few pests, but it is vulnerable to wireworms and nematodes. Carefully check your soil drainage quality before planting garlic.
How and When to Harvest Garlic
Harvest your garlic around the end of July or early August, when the lower third to half of the leaves have turned brown and wilted, but the upper leaves are still green.
It can be tricky deciding exactly when to harvest, which is where the flower stalks can come in handy. If the leaves are starting to turn brown and the scapes uncurl and stand up straight, it is time to harvest.
If you follow these steps, you should have no trouble planting garlic this fall. With a little bit of preparation and care, you can enjoy fresh garlic all year long. Do you have any tips for planting or caring for garlic? Share them with us in the comments below!