Time to Plant: Garlic
October 16, 2009
I planted a few varieties of garlic yesterday. The entire month of October is prime garlic planting time. Purchase culinary garlic bulbs for planting (preferably not from the grocery store-often they are treated to prevent sprouting). You'll usually find varieties of Softneck, Hardneck and Elephant garlic. The Softnecks are better adapted to warmer climates. Hardnecks will have a hard shoot that emerges from the middle of the bulb. They often have a more strong, hot flavor. Elephant garlic produces huge bulbs but a milder flavor. Split the bulb up into the separate cloves. You can peel the tunic off the clove if you want to but you don't have to. Plant each clove about two-inches deep and each clove several inches apart. Choose a sunny spot with rich well draining soil. I plant mine in raised beds. Fall is the best time to plant garlic as it needs a cool period to develop a root system, before it begins to put on heavy bulb growth with the return of warm temperatures.
The following spring, leaves and scapes (flower shoots) will emerge and grow through spring. Fertilize your garlic with an organic veggie/herb food in early spring, just as the leaves begin to emerge. When it turns hot plants will bolt (flower) usually late-spring early-summer. After bulbs have bolted, you'll wait to harvest them until the lower leaves have started to turn yellow and die off. Once you've harvested your garlic, you'll need to let it cure (dry down) for a couple of weeks. Don't cut off the foliage or roots. Set them in a shady dry spot, perhaps a shed, where they can dry. After the foliage/roots are completely dry, then you can trim them if you want to and store. You can save a few of your garlic bulbs to re-plant the following fall, or eat it all and buy new ones!