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Growing Garlic

Basics of Growing Garlic

• Prepare a well-groomed seedbed of rich compost or composted manure. Break the bulb into individual cloves.
• Plant cloves 5-6" deep and 4-8" apart, mid to late October, to early November, ideally four weeks before the ground freezes. (Time frames are for central Maine, Zone 4.) More food and more space generally gives larger bulbs.
• Mulch with 4-6" of hay, leaves or straw.
• In spring, move the mulch away from the emerging tips to free up any spears struggling to get through, then replace it close in, to keep weeds down and moisture levels even.
• Top dress or foliar feed, and provide adequate moisture during the growing season to encourage the formation of larger bulbs.
• Cut off the “flower” stalks, known as scapes, as they curl around; eat them, compost them, or dry them for winter arrangements. If you leave the scapes on, the underground bulbs may be smaller, but you can harvest top-set bulbils. Eat them or plant them in fall for fresh greens the next spring or new full-size bulbs in two years.
• Poke around a few garlic bulbs in late July or early August to check growth. Use a fork to loosen the soil, and lift the bulbs when bottom leaves are yellow, 5-6 green leaves remain, before cloves begin to separate. Cure in a shaded airy place, 60-70°, until dry. You may need a dehumidifier during a very wet season. Do not field-cure.
• Trim, clean, store in a cool dry place, then enjoy.

Roberta Bailey’s Turbo-Charged Blue-Ribbon Garlic Growing Tips

• Big bulbs need space for roots, high levels of nitrogen, sufficient trace minerals, and consistent moisture levels.
• The roots of garlic spread 3-4" on either side of the bulb. Plant the cloves 10" apart to optimize root growth and nutrient uptake. Space rows 1' apart. Push individual cloves down about 1-1/2", so the tip of the clove is just at the soil surface.
• Cover the bed with 2-3" of well-rotted compost. Then add nitrogen sources such as a heavy application of composted manure, or a mix of either alfalfa meal (3#/100 sq ft) or fish meal (3#/100 sq ft) with soybean meal (5#/100 sq ft). Fish and alfalfa meals feed the fall root growth; the soybean meal breaks down slowly and is available the following spring.
• Azomite (2#/100 sq ft) supplies trace minerals critical to increasing the overall size of the bulbs. Kelp meal (1#/100 sq ft) is an option which supplies even more minerals.
• Mulch provides protection from frost heaving, and weed protection and moisture regulation in summer. Apply mulch after fall planting, and leave mulch on throughout the spring and summer.
• Water crop during prolonged dry spells.
• In mid-June, just as the garlic begins to form heads, sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of blood meal around each stalk, to give a charge of nitrogen just when it is needed.

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