Soil and water

Master gardener: growing garlic

Kathy berryhill
Creek County Master Gardener

Garlic is one of the easiest crops to grow, store, and enjoy! In fact, this close relative of the onion outperforms most vegetables and complements a plethora of culinary tastes. Best of all, garlic is planted in the fall after other gardening tasks have slowed down and the warmer days have passed. Garlic can be purchased at local nurseries, food stores, and other stores that sell gardening supplies. Buying garlic with large cloves makes the task of peeling and chopping easier. I tried ordering Colossal Garlic online last year and was very happy with the results!

Ideally, garlic should be planted after the fall equinox. For our region, this date is September 22. Planting in the fall will allow the garlic clove to produce roots and begin leaf growth before going dormant for the winter. Giving the clove this head start will produce a bigger yield than if it were planted in the spring. Avoid planting store-bought garlic, as it has often been chemically treated to prevent germination.

Practice good crop rotation and don’t plant in an area where onions or garlic have grown for the past two years. Prepare a weed-free planting area with a fair amount of daily sun. Like any crop, good, rich soil will give better results. Garlic needs a high level of nutrients. Having your garden soil tested at the OSU extension office is a great way to determine how to manage fertilization. Apply half of the necessary fertilizer at the time of planting. The other half can be added when the spring growth is 4-6 inches. high. Avoid overwatering as nutrients can be lost through runoff. If it is a very wet spring, consider a third application of fertilizer.

A head of garlic (or bulb) contains many individual cloves and each clove in turn will produce a complete bulb. When a clove is separated from the bulb, each clove will have a flat bottom (where the roots emerge) and a pointed top (where the leaves emerge). Inspect each clove carefully before planting because a damaged clove is prone to disease. Before planting, apply light pressure to the bulb to make sure it is not rotten (paste) or completely dry. Drill a 2 “hole in rich soil and place the clove” flat side down, pointed side up “and cover well with soil. Cloves can be spaced as close as 4-5 “in rows of 18′-24”.

Weed control can be easily managed with 4 “of clean straw for winter protection. When the weather warms, remove the mulch from the bulb and place it between the rows to control spring and summer weeds .

In late spring, garlic will produce a seed head (scape). Harvesting these delicious, fresh green vegetables will help the bulb save energy and produce a larger bulb.

As the bulb finishes growing in early summer, continue to monitor the amount of moisture to make sure it is receiving 1 inch of water each week throughout the month of June. As the heat of summer arrives, the garlic leaves begin to turn yellow. At this point, reduce water applications to allow the plant to complete bulb formation.

When you notice that the lower leaves are starting to turn yellow, the garlic is ready to harvest. Harvest bulbs by digging, not pulling, the bulb. Carefully remove dirt, but do not wash as the paper bulb is needed for protection. Let the buds dry in a shady spot for several days.

If garlic is stored in a cool, dry place, your harvest will last for months. Enjoy!

The Creek County Master Gardener column is submitted weekly exclusively to Sapulpa Times. Do you have questions for your Creek County Master Gardener? Send your questions and column requests to [email protected]

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