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Growing Garlic

The principal advantage to the home nursery worker is the chance to develop and utilize a portion of the brilliant garlic assortments at times, if at any point, found in the grocery stores and infrequently even at farmer?s markets or roadside stands. Out of more than 600 sub-assortments, just 2 are regularly found in supermarkets. In the event that you like cooking and eating garlic, extend your collection!

The second advantage (other than eating the garlic) is the developing garlic has common fungicide and pesticide properties. Garlic partner planting is particularly advantageous to lettuce by dissuading aphids, and to cabbage. Garlic oil is viable at repulsing and notwithstanding murdering snails and slugs.

And ensuring different plants, garlic can likewise enhance their flavor. Beets and cabbage are accounted for to be great allies that advantage from this. In any case, not all sidekick planting with garlic is valuable. Garlic doesn’t coordinate well with vegetables, peas or potatoes so don’t plant your garlic too close to these.

What kind to Grow, and Where

Garlic isn’t just garlic, there are many different kinds of garlic and they’re almost all different in size, color, shape, taste, number of cloves per bulb, pungency and storage times.

Botanists classify all true garlics under the species Allium Sativum. There are two subspecies; Ophioscorodon, or hard-necked garlics (Ophios for short) and Sativum, or soft-necked garlics. Hardnecks further divide into Rocambole, Purple Stripe, and Porcelain sub-groups although 2 more sub-groups have recently been added: Marbled Purple Stripe and Glazed Purple Stripe. Softnecks have 2 main groups: Artichokes and Silverskins. Artichoke garlics now include the Turban and Asiatic sub-groups. There is yet another group called Creole, long thought to be a sub-group of the Silverskins but the latest DNA studies show them in a separate class by themselves.

So, how do you decide what to grow? I have separate articles covering each of these groups following this article and you will find good information in them. One is a general overview, this one is on basics of growing and cooking garlic, and the ones on hardnecks, softnecks and Creoles will help you decide which type for your climate and which varieties for your taste buds.

Garlic is easy to grow. Great garlic is difficult to grow.

Garlic developed in central Asia with long cold winters, damp cool springs and warm, dry summers. Since then it has been grown around the world and a few needs have changed. Varieties like Rocamboles still need those central Asian conditions. Porcelains and Purple Stripes are more tolerant but still won’t do well in a hot dry spring. Hardneck Rocamboles do poorly in warmer climates.

Garlic tolerates most soils but if you want excellent large and beautiful garlic, you need a healthy soil full of micronutrients and minerals. High concentrations of NPK fertilizers can kill off the healthy microorganisms living in the soil, as can chemical herbicides and pesticides. “If the government requires applicators to wear ‘protective’ clothing (boots, gloves, hoods and masks) to apply it, why would you want to eat it?” [1] Garlic really needs the minerals and micronutrients more than an abundance of NPK. The soil should have manure and compost added on a regular basis. Rock dusts and minerals can be added; they act like long-time slow-release fertilizers and the garden will continue to maintain fertility for years to come, with fewer applications eventually needed.

Garlic should be planted in the fall in the north. This gives time for sprouting roots to develop before the emerging plants die down with cold winter temperatures. After a few frosts but before the ground freezes hard in my Zone 5b, I cover my garlic bed with 6-8” of straw which helps prevent frost heave. When the ground begins to warm in the spring, I remove the straw so the sun can warm the emerging stalks. Sometimes the fall planted bulbs will sprout enough to send up green shoots before winter. That’s okay… they will die back and grow again in spring.

Garlic likes fertile, well-drained soil so that the bulb is above the water level and the roots deep into the moist soil. Plant the cloves root end down, about 4” deep and 6” apart in the north, and 2-3” deep in the south. Bubils (from the scapes) can be harvested and planted but they will take 2 or more years to produce a large bulb. Some vendors and growers recommend soaking individual cloves in water with bicarbonate of soda for a few minutes, and then dipped in rubbing alcohol (or 140 proof vodka) for 3-4 minutes to kill any pathogens. Use the largest cloves to grow the best bulbs for next year.

If your soil is healthy and fertile you may choose (or not) to add a foliar spray in the spring. A tablespoon each of molasses, seaweed and baking soda in a gallon of water makes a good spray used 2-3 times in spring. Do not use a foliar spray on dry plants, nor spray close to harvest. The leaves will become lush at the expense of the bulb.

When the tops just start to turn yellow/brown and fall over, gently dig the bulbs. There should still be some green inner leaves. When only about 8 green leaves remain, stop watering and let the soil begin to dry. After digging the bulbs, do not wash, just brush off loose dirt and store in dry shade for 2-4 weeks to cure. Treat them gently as they can bruise easily and thus not store well.

Store garlic warm (55-65ºF), dry (40-60% humidity) and in the dark to keep it dormant. Garlic is usually hung to dry and good air circulation is very important.