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Saturday, October 29, 2016

Growing Organic Garlic in Containers and Earth Beds: Fall Planting

Growing Organic Garlic 
in Containers and Earth Beds: Fall Planting
Gary Pilarchik (The Rusted Garden)

Gary Pilarchik (The Rusted Garden)
There are two general categories for garlic and they are either softneck garlic or hardneck garlic. I recommend you do a search for zone planting of garlic and it will tell you which garlic type is best suited for your area. I am in Maryland Zone 7 and my zone is kind of like the buffer zone for both types. As you go more north, you would look to grow hardneck varieties. As you go more south you would look to grow softneck varieties. I grow both.

The key to planting garlic in the fall is to plant when the cool fall weather arrives and stays. You want your garlic to establish a strong root system over the fall but not grow lots of green growth. If you plant it when it is too warm, it will send up green shoots. Some green growth is fine. When the nights in your area start to stay in the 50's that is a great time to plant your garlic. I plant mine in late October. When you see the tree leaves turning colors... get your garlic in the ground.

Garlic should be planted in loose well draining soil. It doesn't like to sit in damp earth as it creates disease issues. The planting depth will vary between 2 inches to 6 inches as you want the cloves to be planted below the freeze level of the ground. I plant mine, in containers, at a 6 inch depth as containers freeze more deeply during my winters. I plant them 4 inches deep in my earth beds as the earth holds heat better. The ground beds get about an inch of freeze during our coldest months. You can also put several inches of straw or mulch on your beds to insulate the ground. Just remove it come spring. That is a great tip for more northern zones. This is how I plant garlic in my containers.

I use a balanced 5-5-5 (or close to that as I buy what is on sale) organic fertilizer for most of  my garlic and most of my vegetable plants. That is 5 (N)itrogen-5 (P)hosphorous-5 (K)/Potassium which is your N-P-K values. You really don't need more than that for most vegetables. However, fertilizers vary greatly. Try and stay in the middle of a 1-1-1 and a 10-10-10. The numbers do not need to be balanced. This is just a guideline. In fact for bulb development phosphorus is really important. While a 5-5-5 will work just fine to establish the bed or container, I like to boost mine with Bone Meal which is a 2-14-0 fertilizer.  The high phosphorous helps bulb growth.

The earth bed garlic video will detail the fertilizers. Don't stress about it. Just use this as a guideline. Come spring you want to feed your garlic with a water soluble organic fertilizer and try to find one that has a higher P or phosphorous value over N or nitrogen. You want bulb growth and not leaf growth in the case of garlic.

Spacing is pretty simple. I plant the cloves 4-6 inches apart based on the size of the bulb development when mature. If in doubt stay at the 6 inch spacing. And remember, you are not planting a whole garlic bulb but a portion of it called the clove. Row spacing, I keep the same at 4-6 inches. Although some people recommend 8-10 inches between rows, I have not found the value in giving up the extra space. You'll notice in the videos that  my container garlic gets planted more closely together. That will inhibit, to some degree, the bulb size but you can help off-set that with extra water soluble feedings.

You don't really need to water the garlic cloves in at planting as the weather is cool. Watering it twice a week is plenty come the warming end of spring. Watering is more important for container garlic then earth bed garlic. If you notice buds on the tips of your garlic growth as summer approaches, remove them. You don't went energy going into flowering/scapes. Garlic, in my zone, is ready to harvest come mid to late June. The green growth will brown and fall over.  Now I like to pick some early. I use it in salad dressings and in cooking.  I even use the leaves in scrambled eggs.

You can purchase your garlic on line. It is a great way to find different varieties of softneck and hardneck garlics suited to your taste desires and planting zone. Garlic from grocery stores can be used. I have used it for years. Even if your garlic fails to a degree, you will get a bulb of some size and be able to use it your kitchen. Just plant a bulb and give it a try! You only learn by doing.

Good Luck with Your Garden,
Gary (The Rusted Garden)

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