Tips for planting garlic

Want home-grown garlic next year? It's not too late.

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Thought you missed the window of opportunity to grow your own garlic? Fear not — there’s still time! Garlic is usually planted in the fall and harvested in late spring or early summer.

October is a good month for most of North America, but garlic can be planted later as long as the ground remains unfrozen for three more weeks. Frosty air temperatures are not a concern.

Plant those cloves today, and dream of the aromatic garlic dishes you’ll get to enjoy come spring!

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Here are some tips that will ensure success:

Avoid planting garlic that was purchased from a grocery store. It may have been treated with growth suppressants or stored in a way that will make it grow poorly.

Much more interesting and better tasting garlic cultivars that are suitable for planting can often be found at local farmers’ markets as well as from many specialty garlic growers through mail order or the Internet. "The Complete Book of Garlic" has a listing of sources.

Separate the cloves of garlic and discard any that look unhealthy. The biggest cloves will produce the biggest bulbs. One clove produces one bulb at harvest.

Plant the cloves in a sunny location, root end down, pointed tip up, two to three inches deep, at a spacing of 10 inches between rows and six inches within the rows.

Garlic will grow in poor soil, but for the best crop plant in loose loamy soil with near-neutral pH. In general, good garden soil is good garlic-growing soil.

Garlic is not a heavy nitrogen feeder, but composted manure worked into the soil at planting adds both tilth and fertilizer. Garlic immediately begins growing underground, though above-ground growth may not be visible until spring.

If your winters are very cold or very dry, add a layer of mulch to your garlic beds to protect the garlic against freezing or drying, or being heaved out of the ground by heavy frosts. A loose mulch, such as straw, works well.

Copyright by Ted Jordan Meredith, author of  "The Complete Book of Garlic: A Guide for Gardeners, Growers, and Serious Cooks"  (Timber Press, 2008)

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