Last week, in the first installment of all things garlic, the discussion leaned towards picking the right varieties. Now, it’s time to get dirty and put some cloves in the ground.
1)Mise en Place
Some of the best ingredients for a garlic garden plot is alfalfa (hay, meal or pellets), bone meal or soft rock phosphate. Bone meal and soft rock both contain a good amount of the delicious phosphorous garlic gobbles up. I prefer soft rock since beneficial microbes (like mycorrhizae ) readily attach to it. Alfalfa is an excellent nitrogen source as well as providing minerals like boron, calcium,magnesium, iron, sulfur, and zinc.
In Ron L. Engeland’s garlic bible, Growing Great Garlic, he recommends doing a cover crop of alfalfa for three years before tilling it in and doing a garlic bed in its place. However, most don’t have the time (or the commercial inclinations) for such labor. For the hobbyist gardener, meal and pellets will suffice.
Ideally, both bone meal (or soft rock) and alfalfa should be incorporated a month or two before the initial planting (especially if you’re doing alfalfa hay). If you’re late to the game, don’t fret. You can still put the amendments down (use alfalfa pellets or meal instead of hay), while also incorporating a good compost tea with alfalfa meal and bat guano (with high phosphorous) to water the fledgling cloves. Check out the Dig It blog on compost tea here.
Another powerful additive to the planting repertoire is the beneficial fungi, mycorrhizae. According to several experts in food chemistry, the addition of mycorrhizae can increase the selenium ( a powerful antioxidant that can combat cancer) uptake in garlic by up to 15 times.
2) Location, Location, Location
Besides the freshly tilled alfalfa bed (or buckwheat bed thanks to its phosphorous uptake), there are many options for where to plant. A former tomato bed is ideal since tomatoes are magnets for fungal disease. Garlic is anti-fungal since it accumulates sulfur naturally. Garlic can also be planted near roses and numerous fruit trees, lettuces, and celery to repel aphids. Also practice good crop rotation. Do not plant garlic in a bed where onions or any member of the garlic’s Allium family (i.e. chives, leeks) had previously grown the season before.
3) Do the math…really, it’s easy.
According to the Sow True Seed site, one pound of seed garlic will plant 20-25 row feet of garlic when planted with 6″ between cloves.
A pound of hardneck garlic yields about 40 cloves (aka seeds). If you plant 40 cloves, expect 40 bulbs at harvest, which equates to about 7 pounds. A pound of softneck can do about 60 cloves, which means 60 bulbs, which means…drum roll please… 7 pounds.
4) Bury ’em
Now until late October is optimum for garlic planting, so the clove can root before the ground freeze. Seperate the cloves from the bulb (making sure its pest and disease free). Plant the blunt end down about 2 inches, affording 6″ between each plant and 12″ between each rows. To prepare for the winter, mulch the baby bulbs with plenty of grass clippings and (preferably) shredded leaves to provide warmth and limit spring weed growth.
For a little more detail, check out this video on planting garlic: