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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Planting Garlic Now for May/June Harvest

Garlic Polish White at the Orchard
Garlic is easy to grow in southern Nevada. Both hardneck and softneck (the braiding types) will grow here. It is not difficult but you must have soil that is well prepared with plenty of compost and fertilized with a phosphorus fertilizer to a depth of 12 inches prior to planting. Some very good varieties to try include Polish White, Tuscan, Morado Gigante, Susanville, Red Janice, Kettle River Giant, Chesnok Red. I have never had a garlic failure with any variety. If you just want to try your luck the first year, buy some from the store (some people tell you not to because of disease but most gardeners do anyway) and plant them in a large container. The garlic will grow from the clove and stay frozen in time through the winter and resume growth and bulb up next spring.

Separate the cloves from the bulb and keep them in the house overnight. This gives the small damaged area created when separating them heal a short time before planting. It is actually best to wait a week but actually 24 hours is enough. I like to soak the cloves in fresh, cool water for several hours before planting. This should cut off a day or two in the emergence time.

Young garlic for grilling
Plant them in a row, in a bed equally spaced or container three inches apart (if you want to harvest some early for grilling) or six inches apart if you want to give them enough room to reach their full potential size and dont want garlic for grilling. Garlic for grilling is usually harvested as the garlic is just starting to bulb or swell up underground. This will be like March or early April. Plant them with the pointy end up and about four inches deep, covering them with soil of course.

Decide on your irrigation method. I like drip with inline emitters six inches apart. You could use soaker hose I guess or laser tubing but these will plug up and not last long. Acutally I like to use drip tape but I have to order it online from places like dripirrigation.com If planting in a bed, I like the drip tubing 12 inches apart. This way you can plant the entire bed with the cloves the same distance apart and not waste any space. You can plant three inches on either side of the drip tubing. In a container you will have to hand water or use a drip spray emitter probably.
Garlic scape

I usually sidedress nitrogen once a month during the growing season. (Sidedress just means you sprinkle some high nitrogen fertilizer six inches away from the bulbs and let the irrigation water move it toward the roots. Do not broadcast the fertilizer over the tops of the plants or you could damage them). Here are the basic procedures. Or you can install an inexpensive fertilizer injector that works by venturi system.

Once planted and feritlized water them in deeply and mulch with straw or paper mulch. This helps to keep the soil moist and aids in even emergence. I would water about twice a week until you see emergence then you can probably water once a week at the most. Keep the bed free of weeds.

Freshly harvested garlic at the Orchard. Morado Gigante.
The first thing you can harvest is your garlic for grilling. I will usually stick my fingers down into the soil and feel if the bulb is starting to swell in early March. When it does and if you planted three inches apart, harvest every other one for grilling. If you planted six inches apart then wait for the next thing to harvest.... scapes. Scapes are the flower stalks that emerge from the plant in spring. This growth comes from the center of the growing top of hardneck garlics and will produce a flower. We usually harvest it before the flower opens and the scape has made nearly a complete circle.

The last thing you harvest is the bulb itself. Watch the tops of the garlic plants. When the tops have died down about 1/3 (2/3 of the top is still green) lift the garlic plant with a spading fork or irrigate so the soil is very wet and pull the plants out of the ground.

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