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Growing Garlic

Basics of Growing Garlic:
feed 'em, weed 'em, give 'em space

• Prepare a well-groomed seedbed of rich compost or composted manure. Break the bulb into individual cloves.
• Plant cloves 5-6" deep and 4-8" apart, mid to late October, early to mid November, ideally four weeks before the ground freezes. (Timing for central Maine, Zone 4.) More food and more space generally gives larger bulbs.
• Mulch with 4-6" of hay, leaves or straw.
• In spring, move the mulch away from the emerging tips to free up any spears struggling to get through, then replace it close in, to keep weeds down and moisture levels even.
• Top dress or foliar feed, and provide adequate and even moisture while growing, to encourage larger bulbs to form.
• Cut off the “flower” stalks, known as scapes, as they curl around; eat them, compost them, or dry them for winter arrangements. If you leave the scapes on, the underground bulbs may be smaller, but you can harvest top-set bulbils to eat or plant them in fall for fresh greens the next spring or new full-size bulbs in two years.
• Poke around a few garlic bulbs in late July or early August to check growth. Use a fork to loosen the soil, and lift the bulbs when bottom leaves are yellow or five or six upper green leaves remain, before cloves begin to separate. Cure in a 60-70° shaded airy place until dry. You may need a dehumidifier during a very wet season. Do not field-cure in New England as it is often too cool and/or too wet; if you're in Gilroy or central Asia, it's fine.
• Trim, clean, store in a cool dry place, then enjoy.

Roberta Bailey’s Turbo-Charged Blue-Ribbon Garlic Growing Tips

• Big bulbs need space for roots, high levels of nitrogen, sufficient trace minerals, and consistent moisture levels.
• The roots of garlic spread 3-4" on either side of the bulb. Plant the cloves 10" apart to optimize root growth and nutrient uptake. Space rows 1' apart. Push individual cloves down about 1-1/2", so the tip of the clove is just at the soil surface.
• Cover the bed with 2-3" of well-rotted compost. Then add nitrogen sources such as a heavy application of composted manure, or a mix of either alfalfa meal (3#/100 sq ft) or fish meal (3#/100 sq ft) with soybean meal (5#/100 sq ft). Fish and alfalfa meals feed the fall root growth; the soybean meal breaks down slowly and is available the following spring.
• Azomite (2#/100 sq ft) supplies trace minerals critical to increasing the overall size of the bulbs. Kelp meal (1#/100 sq ft) is an option which supplies even more minerals.
• Mulch provides protection from frost heaving, and weed protection and moisture regulation in summer. Apply mulch after fall planting, and leave mulch on throughout the spring and summer.
• Water crop during prolonged dry spells.
• In mid-June, just as the garlic begins to form heads, sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of blood meal around each stalk, to give a charge of nitrogen just when it is needed.


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