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Plant Garlic Now for Great Flavor and Big Bulbs Next Summer

If you're thinking about growing garlic, now is the time to get it in the ground.

Planting garlic before the ground freezes will give the plant the maximum time to get established and mature.

This photo shows the dramatic difference between garlic that was planted in fall (on the right) and garlic planted in the spring. Photo courtesy Mother Earth News

Garlic is a cold-hardy root vegetable. It will go dormant over the winter, then will grow when warmer weather hits in the spring. By summer harvest time, the bulbs will be the biggest and tastiest they can be.

Choose a sunny site, and loosen the planting bed to at least 12 inches deep. Thoroughly mix in a 1-inch layer of mature compost. In acidic soil, also mix in a light dusting of wood ashes. Wait until just before planting to break bulbs into cloves. Poke the cloves into the ground 4 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart, with the pointed ends up. Cover the planted area with 3 to 5 inches of organic mulch, such as hay or shredded leaves.

Garlic falls into three types:

Softneck types grow best where winters are mild, though some tolerate cold to Zone 5. Most varieties do not produce scapes (edible curled flower stalks), but softnecks are great for braiding. Subtypes include Creole, artichoke and many Asian varieties.

Hardneck types adapt to cold winter climates, and all produce delicious curled scapes in early summer. Popular subtypes include porcelain, purple stripe and rocambole.

Elephant garlic produces a large, mild-flavored bulb comprised of four to six big cloves. Closely related to leeks, elephant garlic is hardy to Zone 5 if given deep winter mulch.

 

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