Many times when people think of garlic their first thought is a vampire but it is good for you.  It has a reputation as being a healthy food and has a delicious taste.

It is a species in the onion genus.  It is a common seasoning worldwide.  In addition to being used as a seasoning, it also has many health benefits such as helping reduce the number of colds and how long you will be down with it and help reduce blood pressure.

Garlic – Planting, Growing & Harvesting Guide

1. Garlic Facts

This is an easy-to-grow crop that is generally planted in the fall and harvested in midsummer.  Not all garlic matures at the same time.  The one that generally matures first is the Artichoke garlic and then the Rocambole garlic.  If you save seeds, save some of the garlic seed cloves to plant next season.  You should choose the largest ones you have because if you use the smaller one, you will have smaller bulbs.

2. Planting

The dates to plant garlic will vary but most will plant them in late fall.  The roots will develop during the fall and winter before the ground freezes.  They start to produce foliage in the spring.  When you plant them, make sure that you are leaving enough time for them to root before the ground freezes. 

You should select a sunny spot to plant them in well-drained fertile soil that has a pH of 6.5 to 7.  If the soil is heavy, you should use heavily raised mulch beds.  Get your cloves from a local nursery, or seed company but not a grocery store.  You want to use large healthy cloves.  

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A few days before planting, break apart the cloves from the bulb but keep on the papery husk.  Put the cloves two to four inches apart and two inches deep.  Make sure they are in the upright position with the pointed end up and the wide root side facing down.  You need to plant in rows that are spaced 10-14 inches apart.

3. Growing

If you are a northern gardener you need to mulch heavily with straw so they can overwinterize properly.  After the threat of frost has passed you should remove the mulch.  When the temperatures get warmer, the shoots will come through the ground. 

Any flower shots that emerge need to be cut off because they can decrease the size of the bulb.  In early spring you need to fertilize using a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer.  Just before the bulbs start to swell you need to fertilize again.  You need to keep the area well weeded.  Water the plants every three to five days from mid-May through June.

4. Harvesting

When:  You can harvest your garlic when the lower leaves start to turn brown.  One way to make sure is to dig up a couple of bulbs to check their progress to see if the cloves fill out the skins.  If so, then it is time to harvest.  If you harvest them too soon you will have smaller cloves.  These will not store well. 

If you leave them in too long in the ground, it can cause the cloves to burst out of the skin.  This would give them a shorter storage time and makes them vulnerable to disease.  Timing is important when harvesting garlic.  Most garlic plants are ready to harvest in June or July.

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Garlic Planted in a ground

Tool: You will need kitchen scissors or knife, garden fork, and something to put them in.

How:   If possible, wait for the soil to dry before you start harvesting.  They do not pull out of the ground like onions so you will have to dig them out.  If you have planted a small clove, the mature bulb will be several inches down in the ground.  They will also have a strong root system.  You should always dig up your garlic using a garden fork as it is easier to use than a shovel.  Loosen the dirt before gently digging up the garlic because you do not want to pull the garlic.  If you accidentally slice through it, you can still use it but cannot store it.  Once you have it out of the ground, gently shake off the remaining dirt by hand so you can separate the soil from the bulb.  

Curing:  After you harvest your garlic, you will have to dry or cure it before you can store it for use later.  If any soil remains on the bulbs it needs to be brushed off.  Do not get the bulbs wet.  While they are drying or curing, leave the roots and stalks on the bulbs.  Take eight to ten garlic stems to make a bundle and tie them with twine.  You can either lay the garlic flat on a raised screen in a single layer or hang them bulb side down in a dark, cool space.  They will need to dry or cure for three to four weeks.  You need to make sure that you keep them out of the sunlight.  It can change the flavor. 

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After the roots and tops have dried, cut them off and clean the garlic.  You do this by removing the papery skin on the outside but do not expose any of the cloves.  For the soft neck varieties, you can leave the stalks and braid the garlic.

Conclusion

After you harvest your garlic you can save the biggest bulbs and use them for planting the next crop.  This will help save you money for buying garlic to plant.  When you plant garlic do not plant peas, sage, beans, or parsley around them as they are not the best companions for garlic but you can plant kale, potato, and dill. 

After harvesting you can store the soft neck varieties or six to eight months and the hard neck varieties three to four months.  Check them occasionally to make sure they are not sprouting or going soft.  Make sure that you are storing the bulbs that you are going to use for planting at room temperature and high humidity so they do not dry out. 

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