Saturday, May 11, 2013

How to Plant and Grow Garlic

Photo by: byrev

How to Plant and Grow Garlic
Yesterday we went shopping for garden plants. It was a beautiful day, not too hot or too cold. It lit the spirit of gardening in the kids and me. The plants looked healthy, and we couldn't help ourselves as we picked out tomatoes, peppers and everbearing strawberry plants. Then inside the store, we came to the seed packages. We picked out sugar-pie pumpkin, squash, radishes, and cucumbers. We also picked up a package of garlic bulbs. 

The only things we can safely plant outdoors that we bought is the garlic bulbs and radish seeds.This blog post is going to help you to be successful in planting and growing garlic. Now, usually the best time for garlic to go into the ground is from September through March, so I am a few months behind. 

Garlic is a member of the leek, onion, and the lily family. Garlic comes as a bulb or head. Peel away the papery covering on the outside to find the individual cloves. The individual cloves are what you plant.

The older generation gardeners, planted garlic close to the autumnal equinox. Garlic planted in the fall, will have a head start as it develops its root section. This allows the plant to get through the long winter months. In the spring, the garlic will start to grow again. 

Prepare the Soil

Til, dig or plow the ground to a depth of 6 inches or more. For the garlic bulbs to grow and develop, they need the soil to be rich, lose soil. Amend the garden soil with 2 to 4 inches of organic compost. If you have access to some well-rotted manure, include that into the soil.

Photo by: PDPhotos

Prepare the Garlic for Planting

Remove the papery covering around the bulbs exterior so you can break the garlic bulbs apart for the individual cloves. Although each clove will form a head of garlic, pick only the big, healthy ones to plant, leaving the smaller ones for cooking. Larger cloves will produce bigger the heads of garlic.

Mix up a solution of 1 heaping tablespoonful baking soda and 1 heaping tablespoonful liquid seaweed in 1 gallon of water. Drop the garlic cloves in the solution and allow them to soak for several hours or overnight. You can skip this step, but if you soak the cloves in this solution before planting it helps prevent fungal diseases and it gives them a boost of energy to start growing once they are planted. Remove the garlic cloves from the baking soda/seaweed solution and put them in a bowl of rubbing alcohol or 100 proof vodka for three to four minute. This will kill any insect eggs or fungus spores that the first soaking missed. Remove the garlic from this solution and plant them  immediately into the prepared garden soil. 

Planting the Garlic
There are varying reports as to whether or not you need to remove the papery skin around the garlic. It can go either way. Sometimes while handling the garlic cloves, the papery skin will come off, so don’t worry if that happens. Your garlic will still grow.
Form a hole in the soil with a stick or you can dig a furrow. The hole or furrow should be about 3 inches deep so that the top tip is 2 inches under the soil. Insert the cloves with the flat end, or root section, points down into the  soil. Cover them with soil. Lightly firm the soil with your hands so the clove is in firm contact with the soil and to collapse air pockets. Space the garlic cloves 4 inches apart in rows spaced 6 to 8 inches. 


Cover the garlic bed with 3 inches of organic mulch like grass clippings or leaves. The mulch acts as a weed control. It also helps the  soil to retain moisture longer. Pull any weeds that pop through the. mulch, otherwise they will rob the garlic of nutrients and moisture. 


Water the garlic bed to keep it slightly moist, but not soggy. Once every four weeks, when the garlic is growing, fertilize the bed with a fertilizer that contains boron and zinc. If your garlic plants are still struggling, foliar feed them with liquid seaweed based fertilizer. 

As the plants grow, remove the flower head when they appear.  If you leave them on the plant, the energy will go into the flower, and the garlic bulb will stop growing. 

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