Garlic Time!

Reader Contribution by Jason Akers
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 Its garlic time again!  Sorry if I sound a little excited but for a gardener who is already getting weary of fall and the prospect of a coming winter garlic provides a welcome reprieve.  There’s something about peeling the skin away thats akin to unwrapping a present.  The separation of the cloves becomes a zen-like experience. 

Its actually tough to find decisive advice on when to plant garlic.  Common wisdom states that either spring or fall planting is correct.  However what most don’t state is that the garlic needs a period of chill to essentially break dormancy.  If you plant in in last fall/early winter you don’t have to worry about that.  And as long as you plant the garlic deep enough and mulch well you won’t have to worry about the winter harming the cloves.  Plus when I plant the varieties I grow around the first of November here in Kentucky I get a harvest in time for my tomato harvest.  The choice is pretty obvious to me. 

But I have planted garlic around April.  That garlic was already sprouting in the humid air.  I got a crop but the bulbs were obviously smaller. 

The recommended planting depth is 1-2″.  I don’t get out the ruler though when I plant.  I find that any depth in that range is fine.  I then cover with at least an inch of mulch.  The pointy side (away from the root ball) goes up by the way.  When I let my three year old plant the cloves with me I had to constantly remind him.  Eventually I just went behind him and corrected the ones that had fell (when he wasn’t looking of course). 

The soil doesn’t have to be rich in organic matter though it certainly helps and will result in larger bulbs.  I could tell the difference between bulbs planted where I’d worked on the soil more.  The soil has to be quite well drained.  Waterlogged soil or standing water will rot the cloves in the ground. 

After that, garlic is basically carefree.  Mulch it well and water it in times of drought.  My garlic didn’t seem to mind my neglect or that I didn’t immediately pull every weed nearby.  The sprouts emerge in spring before just about anything else.  Once a majority of the green parts turn brown I harvest (usually mid summer).  You have to get down below the root and pop it out.  After that you should let them dry in a cool (as you can get), dry and dark place for a week or two.  After that, garlic stores extremely well – especially the softneck varieties. 

Garlic originated in Central Asia but has been adopted by virtually all cultures which speaks to its finer qualities.  Garlic is also revered as a medicinal plant due to its antimicrobial, antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial and antivampiric properties.  Its impossible to list all of the ailments that garlic is purported to treat.  Garlic is related to the onion family of plants, residing in the Allium genus. 

Regardless of how you intend to use it, garlic’s beneficial properties make it a must have plant for the homesteader’s garden!

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