Fall is best time to plant garlic

by: SUBMITTED - September through November is the best time to plant garlic.Fall is approaching, but don’t put away your hoe and gardening gloves just yet. September through November is the best time to plant garlic.

Garlic roots develop in the fall and winter, and by early spring they can support the rapid leaf growth that is necessary to form large bulbs, said Chip Bubl, a horticulturist with the Oregon State University Extension Service.

Here are Bubl’s tips for growing garlic this season:

n Lime the soil prior to final bed shaping if you haven’t done so recently. Before planting cloves, work a couple of tablespoons of 5-10-10 complete fertilizer, bone meal or fish meal into the soil several inches below where the base of the garlic will rest. Select healthy large cloves that are free of disease.

n Plant the garlic in full sun in well-drained soil. A sandy, clay loam is best. In heavier soil, plant it in raised beds that are 2 to 3 feet wide and at least 10 to 12 inches tall. Plant cloves root side down, 2 inches deep and 2 to 4 inches apart in rows spaced 10 to 14 inches apart. Space elephant garlic cloves about 6 inches apart. Garlic can be lightly mulched to improve soil structure and reduce weeds. A single 10-foot row should yield about five pounds of bulbs.

n Fertilize garlic in the early spring by side dressing or broadcasting with blood meal, pelleted chicken manure or a synthetic source of nitrogen. Just before the bulbs begin to swell in response to lengthening daylight (usually early May), fertilize lightly one more time. Weed garlic well. Most years, you won’t need to water garlic unless your soil is very sandy. If we have a very dry May and June, water garlic to a depth of 2 feet every eight to 10 days. As mid-June approaches, taper off the watering.

n Don’t wait for the leaves to start dying to check for maturity. Sometimes garlic bulbs will be ready to harvest when the leaves are still green. The best way to know is to pull one up and cut it open crosswise. Start checking for mature cloves about late June. Harvest garlic when the head is divided into plump cloves and the skin covering the outside of the bulbs is thick, dry and papery.

n Dig, then dry the mature bulbs in a shady, warm, dry and well-ventilated area for a few days. Then remove the tops and roots. Brush dirt off the bulbs. To braid garlic together, harvest it a bit earlier while leaves are green and supple.

n Avoid bruising the garlic. Store bulbs in a dark, dry and well-ventilated place. Protect from high humidity and freezing. Do not store garlic in the refrigerator. Properly stored garlic should last until the next crop is harvested the following summer.

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