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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Garlic: The Sweet Taste of Learning How to Plant It in Winter!


Garlic Cloves Ready to Plant: Gary Pilarchik

The key to garlic is planting it in cool weather. I have read a lot about garlic and found there is no set rule for planting or picking, just general ranges.

The planting time range, spans September through December. I read that a gardener planted some bulbs in September, some in October and finally some in November. The outcome… they all matured at the same time with similar size. This tells me the cool weather of Fall and early Winter will work in Maryland. I have little doubt that you could probably plant garlic in March for a slightly later crop.

Well it is January and the ground isn’t frozen, it will be in the 50’s today and I am a bit impulsive. Today has been anointed garlic experiment day. I don’t have time to order garlic since there are no overnight garlic shops in business. So… I will be going to our local Giant. I have grown grocery store garlic in the past. It works. There is always a risk you are buying garlic that is sprayed with a preventative to keep it from sprouting.

The basic planting scheme for garlic is a single clove planted root side down to a depth of 2–3 inches. Spacing between cloves should be a minimum of 4 inches to allow for bulb development. I will address when to harvest garlic in another blog.

Here are some pictures to get you familiar with garlic. There is a  top and bottom but when confused... just plant the clove on its side. The beauty of Nature is that the plant corrects itself to grow toward the sun.

Garlic Bulbs Root Side (L) and Sprout Side (R): Gary Pilarchik
Many Garlic Cloves Form the Bulb: Gary Pilarchik

In the two above pictures you have garlic bulbs and that is what you are hoping to grow and harvest. A garlic bulb has a top and bottom. The bottom side has the remains of the roots and the top side is from where the stem sprouts. I removed the dried outter garlic skin and you can see there are many garlic cloves that form the bulb. The cloves are what you will plant... NOT the bulb.  Below are the cloves broken apart from the bulb.


Garlic Bulbs Being Broken into Cloves: Gary Pilarchik
A Garlic Bulb Broken into Dozens of Cloves: Gary Pilarchik
Garlic Cloves of Various Sizes: Gary Pilarchik

After you break the garlic bulb down, you will find the cloves are in various sizes. They will all grow. The small cloves will not produce bulbs this year but will grow and take another year to form mature bulbs. You can use them like scallions if you want. You can harvest garlic at any time. However, you won't always have bulbs.

The large bulbs are to be planted, typically, in the Fall. I am planting mine now in January. I'm sure they will be fine because the cloves typically just hibernate in cold. The large cloves on the above plate are arranged with the root side down so you can see what it looks like. If you are in doubt plant them on their side. Garlic cloves (not bulbs) should be planted 2-3 inches deep and spaced at least 4 inches apart.

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