Friday, October 17, 2008

Garlic Planting Time

Columbus Day is a good reminder to plant garlic. What you plant now will be ready to harvest on the fourth of July, 2009. Why plant garlic? Several reasons… it is easy to grow, homegrown quality is better than store bought, and the satisfaction of producing really high quality garlic is hard to beat. Tulips and daffodils aren’t the only fall bulbs to be planting this weekend. Don’t forget the garlic.

Penn State’s on-line garlic fact sheet seems to be in revision or hiding somewhere on the web so I’ll outline some garlic planting basics. First, get the right planting stock. DO NOT plant store bought stuff. If you can find a local grower, that is best. While poking around on line looking for our fact sheet, I found several Pennsylvania producers who will sell to you. I’ve been buying from Johnny’s Select Seeds in Maine for years and they still offer a nice lineup of varieties adapted to the Northeast US. If you go to a local Farmers Market, chat with the garlic sellers. If they grew it, it is obviously well adapted to your area. Many growers are partial to the hardneck types, which have excellent flavor. My garlic buddy sent me a variety called Music that is getting lots of acclaim. I currently have Russian and German Red as well as New York White. I like them all. Right now my garage is decorated with bunches of heads, hanging from the rafters. It is a beautiful sight and a reassuring feeling to know that I have a winter’s supply.

The planting details…you’ll plant individual garlic cloves about 1.5 inches deep in rich, well-drained garden soil in October. Space about 6 to 8 inches apart. A few leaves will sprout this fall. After we’ve had several hard freezes, it is a good idea to mulch the garlic bed with straw or leaves to lock in that cold. This prevents “heaving” that can occur as winter temps fluctuate. Not too deep, just a couple inches of fluffy organic matter. Next spring, the garlic will grow thru the mulch. A shot of nitrogen rich fertilizer in April is helpful and then you simply wait for the bulbs to size up. When about one half of the lower leaves have died, it’s time to harvest.

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