Garlic has the advantage of being easy to grow in virtually any soil type. Nonetheless, fertile soils with good drainage will produce better tasting, more nutritious, and larger bulbs. Amend the soil with lots of organic matter such as manure, cocoa fiber, vermicompost, hot compost, etc. Garlic grows best in soil that is neutral to slightly acidic, with a pH of 6 to 7. If your soil tends to be more alkaline, consider adding some acidic enhancers such as agricultural lime.
Preparing the Garlic-
At the time of planting, break apart the bulbs into individual cloves. Be sure to separate the cloves by hand, as you do not one to risk puncturing or bruising the garlic. Leave the papery exterior on the cloves. Separate the smaller cloves from the large ones. The size of the clove will determine the size of the bulb that grows from it. Therefore, it is recommended to only plant the biggest cloves, and save the smaller ones for eating or pickling.
Planting the Garlic-
The month to plant garlic varies given the climate. In cooler regions, the garlic can be planted as early as October. In moderate regions, garlic can be planted around November. In warm climates the garlic can be planted as late as January. A general rule of thumb is to plant the garlic about four to six weeks prior to the anticipated freeze time. If you reside in an area that is generally warm year round, store the garlic in a cool place, roughly 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit, for two to three weeks prior to planting. The coldness is what generates the initial sprouting of the garlic.
Garlic should be planted about four inches deep and spaced about six inches apart. Plant the garlic with the base of the clove facing downward and the pointed end facing upward. The base, often called the growth plate, is where the roots extend from.
Immediately after planting, mulch the garlic with three to four inches of seedless straw, leaf litter, or newspaper. The mulch will help to insulate the soil and protect the seedlings during their earliest stages of growth. You can remove the mulch come springtime, or whenever frost is no longer a threat.
Garlic should be fertilized in early to mid-spring, to produce healthy and large bulbs by harvest time in summer. In warmer climate, where the garlic was planted later, postpone the fertilizing until late spring to early summer. Garlic doesn’t require that much fertilizer to grow. Spray the soil with fish emulsion, or other desired fertilizer, one to three times over the course of a couple weeks. Fish emulsion is an excellent fertilizer due to being so nutritionally complete. It contains a nitrogen-phosphorous- potassium ratio of 4-1-1, providing all of the essential macronutrients to the plants.
Harvest time differs by climate zone, but typically falls between June and August. The garlic will be ready for harvest when the lower portion of its leaves has begun to turn a yellowish-brown. Be careful not to harvest too late, as garlic tend to rot more quickly when it is overly matured. Harvest the garlic as you would potatoes. Dig a spade into the ground near the garlic plant, and unearth the plant from the ground. Be careful not to pierce a bulb in the process. Remove all of the excess dirt and hang them in a warm area, away from sunlight, to dry. The garlic will be fully dried and ready to eat in about a month.
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