February 2018

Plant garlic in fall for a summer harvest

If garlic is a mainstay in the kitchen, try growing it in the garden. © iStockphoto/YuriyS

When thinking about planting tulips, daffodils and other spring-blooming bulbs, consider adding garlic to the list.

Fall-planted garlic is harvested the following summer.

Avoid garlic purchased from grocery stores. It’s best to buy what’s called seed garlic from farmers markets, garden centers or online retailers. Separate the cloves from the bulb and plant. Each clove yields one plant, which takes about eight months to develop into a garlic bulb for harvest.

There are two types of garlic — hard neck and soft neck. The most popular is soft neck (Allium sativum sativum) because it can be stored for up to a year. Most of what we see in supermarkets is soft neck. Hard neck (Allium sativum ophioscorodon) has a woody flower stalk and is used shortly after harvest.

In Indiana, plant cloves by mid to late-October in full sun with well-drained soil that is rich with organic matter, such as compost or finely chopped leaves.

Plant each clove 2 inches deep, tip end up. Space cloves 4 inches apart. Water well. Apply about 3 inches of mulch around the plantings. Use shredded bark, clean straw or other organic material. Keep the area clear of weeds.

In spring, apply an all-purpose granular fertilizer around the base of the plant, according to the label directions of the product you use.

Spring is the time to harvest the flower stalks, called scapes, for cooking. The longer scapes stay on the plant, the tougher they get. Most gardeners remove scapes at some point to increase the size of the garlic bulb growing under ground.

Harvest bulbs in summer after the leaves turn yellow and die back. Brush off soil and place the whole plant on a screen or hang it to air dry in a warm place out of direct sun. This curing is what brings out the distinct flavors of various garlic cultivars.

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