Garlic Planting Guide

Planting Guide

Planting information:

When to plant will depend a little on your location, but generally garlic should be planted from late September to late October.  We live in zone 4b and plant our garlic in mid-October.  It doesn't matter too much as long as you don't plant too early (risk too much top growth) or too late (ground is frozen).  Always use a nematode free source for your garlic seed. 

Fertility requirements:

*Garlic is a medium feeder when it comes to nutrients.  We do soil tests and apply composted sheep manure in the spring when neccessary. 

How to plant:

*break apart cloves one or two days before your plant date.  Plant garlic cloves (root side down) 2-3 inches below the soil, 5-8 inches apart in row and 8-16 inches between rows.

Mulching:

*mulch your garlic with a 6 inch layer of whatever mulch you can get ahold of.  We have used soybean mulch with great success.  Mulch applied too think can prevent garlic from getting through, whereas mulching too thin will let too many weeds through.  It should look well covered but not excessively thick.

Waiting:

*Your garlic will spend the winter in a period of dormancy. 

Springtime care:

*The majority of care that garlic requires comes in  big bursts.  Your garlic will poke up through the mulch in early spring and doesn't really require any attention for a bit.  Some people will use a fish or kelp emulsion and apply once a week in early spring.  We have found this unneccessary.  After a few weeks to a month your garlic will probably need some weeding attention and if it does look weak or thirsty, you may need to water and fertilize.  Because we usually get enough precipitation in the spring, over the past 5 years we have only irrigated our garlic once.  If it is a dry year your garlic will need about an inch of rain a week, although if you did a good job of mulching, moisture will stay in your soil longer.  You will want to stay ahead of the weeds when your garlic is young, but after you have given it a good head start and your mulch does an adequate job keeping most of the weeds down, you shouldn't need to weed anymore.  Contrary to popular belief, garlic can deal with a few weeds once it is well established.  Ideally you will want the water to shut off a week or so before harvest.

Harvest:

Your garlic will be ready to harvest in mid-July-mid August, depending on where you are and how the weather is.  In 2012 when harvested our garlic on July 5th.  This year we didn't harvest until August 5th. 

There are multiple ways to test when to harvest, but most importantly your garlic should look fully formed and plump.  You will want to harvest when there are still 4-7 green leaves so you don't shed to many wrappers.  Use a spade instead of a potato fork to dig so you don't stab your garlic to death.

Knock any excess dirt off from the roots, but no washing of any kind is neccessary.

Curing:

Tie garlic in bundles of 8-12 and hang in a well ventilated, shady spot.  We use a high tunnel with a shade cloth and hang our garlic in double bundles on a wire trellis.  A high tunnel works exceptionally well due to the airflow, and increased drying time.  We have used our barn in the past and have had issues with molding due to bad air circulation and too much humidity.  Many garlic growers use a drafty barn or something like it.  Check on garlic after a few days to make sure it's drying properly.  After 2-3 weeks cut a few bulbs and see if they are done curing.  The cut shouldn't have a fragrance.

Grading:

*If you grow your own garlic you can save your best and biggest bulbs for planting.  Otherwise this is not neccessary.

Storing

 *Store garlic as close to 32% as possible.  A cool, dark basement works fine.  Humidity should be no higher than 70%. 

 

 

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