By the end of October the gardening year is winding down to the dormancy of winter. There are a few tasks left to do but mostly our herb beds are thinking fondly of the coming long winter’s nap. But wait…there’s just one more thing to plant. Now is the time to get garlic in the ground. All types of garlic are best planted in the fall before the first frost in your area. Those living in frost-free regions can also plant in early March for a harvest in late November but fall planting is preferable because the resulting heads harvested in late spring are larger. Mailorder sources are shipping garlics now. See the bottom of this post for sources.
Garlic roots like to go deep so plant it in a loose, well-drained soil with a slightly acid pH – somewhere between 6.2 and 6.8. To avoid soil-borne disease or pests, don’t plant garlic in the same spot where it or other members of the Allium family (onions, shallots, leeks) have grown in the last two years.
Just before planting, separate the cloves by “cracking” the head. If you wait more than 24 hours after cracking the cloves will begin to lose viability. Plant cloves, pointed end up, about two inches deep and 4-5 inches apart. Undersized cloves should be culled from planting as they will produce puny heads.
Once the cloves are planted, keep the soil moist but not soggy until the tips break the surface. Then water as you would any other garden vegetables – at least an inch a week. In late spring after the stalks are at full height ( 2-3 feet for most varieties), stop watering. During the last few weeks the bulbs are segmenting and the outer wrapper is drying out. Too much water during this critical time can encourage mold and will shorten the life of harvested heads.
Garlic requires 8-9 months to mature. During the growing season use a good “10-10-10” balanced fertilizer to encourage head formation. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers because they will encourage leaf production at the expense of the head. Stay on top of the weeding in your garlic plot. Garlic has shallow roots and does not grow dense enough to shade the soil, making it easy for weeds to crowd it out.
Mailorder Sources For Garlic