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October 1, 2012

October perfect time to plant garlic

Garlic is an easy crop to grow at home, and October is the month to plant it. 

Not only do I love to eat garlic, it’s also fun to grow. If you don’t have much room, try planting just one head this fall and see for yourself. Garlic needs a cold spell to size up, so you plant it in the fall and harvest it the following July. It’s perfectly winter-hardy throughout our area.

To get started, buy one or more beautiful heads of garlic from a farmers market, roadside stand or garden center. You can also mail-order garlic, but by now it’s too late for this year. You can try growing garlic from the supermarket, but your results may be mixed. Choose only the best-looking heads for your garden. The wrapper leaves should be smooth, and the head should feel firm (not soft or spongy).

Break the head into individual cloves, and use only the largest ones for planting. Don’t peel the papery covering off the cloves, but give each one a gentle squeeze and again to be sure they’re firm and smooth. There is a common disease that turns the ends of the cloves brown; discard those if you find them.

The main requirement garlic has is well-drained soil. If your soil is heavy or tends to stay wet in the spring, consider using a raised bed instead. Take a look at your cloves to figure out which end is up. The base of the clove is where it was attached to the head, and the tip is the pointy end. Plant each clove — pointy end up — 2 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Two inches deep means the tip of the bulb should be 2 inches below the soil.

You want these cloves to just grow roots this fall with no top growth. We used to recommend planting garlic in early October, but the weather has been pretty mild these past years so now you should probably wait until late October to plant. Last year, we had several calls from people whose garlic was putting out lots of leaves because we had such warm weather into November.

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