Fall planting garlic

Linda Workman Smith
Multi-County Master Gardener Association
Garlic

Unbelievably, it is already time to start putting our gardens to bed for winter.

Best practice is to plant cover crops to protect and enrich soils overwinter. A good rule of thumb with cover crops is to include a legume in the mix as legumes fix nitrogen in soil.

One of my last actions before saying goodbye to my garden in fall is to plant garlic.

Most everyone likes garlic; it is easily planted and grows well here. Garlic is found in the recipes of a huge number of our favorite foods and has been used around the world for 7,000 years as a pungent seasoning.

In our area, garlic should be planted from mid-September through mid-October, using bulbs—separated into cloves--and should be harvested in early June the following year. Bulbs can be planted in early spring, but fall planting with early summer harvesting produces larger and more flavorful bulbs.

There are three types of garlic — softneck, stiff/hardneck and great-headed (elephant garlic). Softneck is best for the south and stiff/hardneck for the north, but both do well in our area. The great-headed variety is actually not a garlic but a leek.

There are many varieties of garlic from which to choose. Grocery store garlics are not good choices; they may not grow well here and are often treated to extend shelf life, which interferes with growth. The best source is from local garden centers or, for a wider variety, order from a seed company. Always try to get the largest bulbs because they produce larger bulbs at harvest time.

OSU in its fact sheet “Vegetable Varieties for Oklahoma,” suggests four varieties: Garlic German Red, Inchilium Red, Silverskin and Spanish Roja. I ordered several varieties last year to trial in my gardens. The one I was most impressed with was, of course labeled as “unknown”…

The individual cloves of garlic are the seeds. Break them apart, but leave the husks/covering of clove in place. They should be planted in full sun in well-drained soil containing plenty of organic matter. Space the bulbs 4-6 inches apart and 2-4 inches deep with the pointed end facing up. They can have their own place in the vegetable garden or can be planted with your flowering ornamentals.

In spring as the tops are growing, they need an inch of water per week and extra nitrogen fertilizer. Some of the new garlic tops will develop a type of flower called “scapes.” These should be removed to allow all the plant’s energy to go toward growing bulbs. These scapes have a mild garlic flavor and are edible.

In June, after the garlic tops begin to yellow, it is harvest time. Different varieties will mature at slightly different times. Dig the bulbs with a garden fork, brush off the soil and place in a cool, dry area for a couple of weeks. After drying, the softnecks tops can be braided to hang. For long-term storage, they are best kept in a cool, dry, dark place in a well-ventilated container (mesh bags are ideal), where they will keep for several months.

I place mine in shallow, ventilated, stackable cardboard boxes.

So, until next spring we bid you adieu, from here at our Two Acre Paradise/Three Dog Circus.

And as always, happy gardening.