Tips on How To Grow Garlic Successfully, year after year.
Garlic is a fairly easy crop to grow but this past season I used a special technique on how to grow garlic that really increased the size & health of the garlic bulbs.
To successfully grow garlic year after year the most important aspect is to plan ahead so to avoid planting garlic in the same bed garlic or onions were grown in the previous year.
For the bed used to last grow garlic a cover crop may be sown, such as buckwheat. This will provide soil fertility which in turn will lower fertilization requirements the following year. A great way to increase humus level in soil such as ours which is clay based.
To avoid the chance of rotting or moldy bulbs of garlic, use a raised bed. We get a fair bit of rain here on the west coast. Along with installing additional drainage, the past few years I began building and using raised beds exclusively which has made a positive difference.
To grow garlic, plan to use a site that is sunny and well drained.
Here on the west coast, fall planting can begin late September into October.
Divide the garlic bulbs into individual cloves at the time of planting, leaving a paper cover on each clove.
Insert the cloves, pointy side up, 4-6″ apart, in rows 1-1.5 to 2′ apart and then cover with 1-2″ fine soil. Separate cloves when about to plant, leaving a papery cover on each clove.
The special technique used this past season in how to grow garlic was to tunnel out a small trench about 1.5 to 2″ deep, right beside each row that the cloves are to be planted in. Take a soaker hose and install into the trench and gently back-fill. The idea is to assure water is getting to the roots of the garlic cloves that will become the new garlic bulbs.
By installing the soaker hose in a small trench along side each garlic clove row assures good deep watering.
The garlic yield this past year definitely improved from previous years where the soaker hose was simply laid along each row but on top of the bed, before mulching.
Before planting each row of garlic cloves, top soil is amended with well composted manure. Each row is lined with the amended soil. Once the cloves are firmly set in, each row is generously back-filled with remainder of the amended soil.
A trick I was told that grew the best garlic yield ever was to line the row with composted leaf material before inserting the cloves. I believe the leaves used were that of Maple. I have tried that and didn’t see a marked difference, however was before I was using the trench technique for the soaker hoses. Perhaps this year the top soil will include some leaf compost along with the manure for the bottom of each garlic clove row.
Once the cloves and soaker lines are in, generously mulch the entire bed with ideally, reed canary straw mulch.
Leaves or old bedding hay can be used instead. I avoid hay due to the seeds that will likely eventually sprout. Okay if you don’t mind the additional weeding.
Newly planted cloves don’t need to be watered until Spring when new growth appears. If the soil is extremely dry, water may be applied once and sparingly or better yet during bed prep.
If fertilizing come Spring, use an organic fertilizer low in nitrogen and high in phosphorus to assure a healthy root system as apposed to high leaf growth.
Some suggest to remove the mulch once the garlic shows new growth in the Spring but I don’t remove the mulch at all. The mulch helps keep the moisture in during the heat of the summer and weeds out.
During the growing season, keep soil evenly moist and bed weed free.
2-3 weeks before harvest, discontinue watering.
Harvesting may begin here on the west coast during July or August or when half to 3/4 of the bottom leaves have died back.
When harvesting garlic, use a pitch fork to gently loosen the bulbs, then lift the bulb by hand. Be gentle so to not bruise the garlic. If you’ve employed the trench idea for the soaker hose as outlined above, be sure to gently lift from the trench before harvesting the garlic bulbs so to avoid piercing your hose.
Line out the bulbs, with tops, singly on top of the bed as you’re harvesting. Allow to dry in the sun for the day. If the bulbs must be left on top of the bed overnight, perhaps cover with several layers of newspaper so to avoid possible morning dew.
Personally, I arrange to harvest early in the morning on a nice hot sunny summer day so the garlic can be brought in and hung before night fall.
If you’re finding bulblets, harvest and dry separate if you are planning to plant for more garlic supply.
Some say these little bulblets is the easiest way to increase your garlic supply.
Garlic can be used fresh straight out of the ground. I prefer to cure first by allowing to dry, hanging for a month or two in a cool airy location out of direct sunlight. An area that is dark is best, such as a shed, basement or even under a porch.
For garlic I plan to use, I continue to allow the garlic to just hang in storage. Garlic I plan to replant I trim the stalk to about 1-2″ from the bulb, snipping off the roots at the same time. These are stored in a slated flat in an airy location with approximately 65-70% humidity and a temperature of 30-50 F until planting time.
Garlic being stored for consumption in these conditions should last for up to a year.
If you’ve raised softneck garlic, now’s the time to braid.
That’s it for these tips on how to grow garlic successfully year after year.