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Monday, October 31, 2011

Plant Garlic Now

Volunteers planting garlic

We planted garlic at the Orchard about two weeks ago. It should be in the ground and irrigated by mid-November. Garlic is planted in the late fall when the soil is still warm but the air temperature is dropping. The concept of late fall planting is to produce roots but keep the top growth from getting away from  you.

Just as a side note, we are always looking for volunteers out there. The Orchard has a “learn-by-doing” philosophy.

The soil was prepared for garlic with compost and a good starter fertilizer high phosphorus. Rocks larger than a golf ball are being removed from the planting beds. Since garlic is a root crop, we must have good drainage. The soil is being prepared to a depth of 18 to 24 inches to accommodate for these root crops. Other planting beds are being prepared to a depth of 12 inches.
Garlic plots at the orchard mulched with straw
The garlic commonly found in the grocery stores is a mild form that accommodates for the taste of the general public. However, if you like to experiment with food, the garlic palette is huge. But planting garlic from selections at the store will give you some hands-on experience if you have never grown garlic before.

You can produce a lot of garlic in a very small area and it is relatively easy to grow. They can also be produced in containers. Pick up some garlic bulbs from your local grocer and separate it into cloves. You can leave the papery outer covering still attached to the clove when planting. Next year you can order some from online vendors but for now, just get the experience of working with garlic.

One of our specialty garlics pushed for size
As I’ve mentioned before, the hardest part about growing garlic is the soil preparation. You cannot skimp on this part of the growing procedures. I like to soak the cloves for a few hours before planting if the cloves look a little dehydrated. The bottom, flat plate of the clove should be pointing down when planting. This means the pointy end is up. Space the cloves about 4 inches apart and about 2 inches deep. Firm the soil above the cloves but do not compress it with your feet. In fact, never put your feet on the prepared rows. Mulch the soil with straw or shredded paper to help keep it moist.

I like to give garlic a small amount of high nitrogen fertilizer once a month during its growing season and hold off on it the last two months before harvest (April and May). Make sure they don't go dry between irrigations when the bulbs are expanding (when you see new growth in the spring).

You should be harvesting late May or June depending on the variety. When the plant browns about 1/3 of its height then use a spading fork and lift them from the ground.

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