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Details of Growing Garlic:
feed ’em, weed ’em, give ’em space
- Prepare a nitrogen-rich well-groomed seedbed.
- Three to four weeks before the ground freezes, break the bulb into cloves and plant them pointed side up about 3" deep and 6-10" apart. Mulch with 4-6" of hay, leaves or straw. Some folks skip the mulch but plant 4-5" deep.
- Garlic is a heavy feeder, and giving more nutrients and more space between cloves generally yields larger bulbs.
- In spring, move the mulch to free up any struggling spears, then replace it close in to keep even moisture and to help prevent weeds.
- 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, from hardnecks before they uncurl and stand up; eat them, compost them, or dry them for winter arrangements. If you leave them on, the bulbs will be smaller. Harvest the top-set bulbils to eat or plant them in fall for fresh greens the next spring or new full-size bulbs in two years.
- Maintain even moisture levels during the season. Allow the soil to dry beginning about a week before harvest.
- Check growth when bottom leaves are yellow or 5-6 leaves are still green; harvest before cloves begin to separate. Use a fork to loosen the soil and lift gently.
- Tie and hang to cure in a well-ventilated place, protected from both sun and rain, until dry. Do not field-cure. Softneck types may be braided after curing.
- Trim roots, trim tops to within 1" of the bulb, clean, store in a cool dry place, enjoy.
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 1½", 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.