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Fall is the Time for Planting Garlic

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Nothing adds more flavor to certain dishes than garlic – and now is actually the best time to plant garlic for next year’s garden. KUNC gardener Tom Throgmorton has more.

In our region, garlic planted in the autumn is ready for harvest the following July.  Like spring flowering bulbs garlic will set roots and start to grow in the warm autumn soil.  As the soil cools the growth stops.  But the plant is ready to start growing as soon as the soil warms up in the spring.

Use larger bulbs for seed garlic.  Crack the bulbs and plant the individual cloves.  Some hard neck varieties may only have six or eight cloves per bulb.  Soft neck varieties may have twelve or more cloves.  Keep the papery skin on the cloves to protect them at planting.

Space garlic cloves about six inches apart.  We planted a double row.  The rows were six inches apart and the cloves were planted about six inches apart in the rows.  That gives us room to cultivate so weeds don’t take over.

We planted the cloves a couple of inches deep.  Some folks like to plant deeper in our area.  We planted a little shallower but plan to mulch the garlic beds.  Once the soil freezes we’ll cover the beds with a couple of inches of compost.  The compost will hold in moisture and prevent the freeze thaw cycle.

Garlic is a heavy feeder and likes nitrogen fertilizer.  The compost will add some nutrients but we’ll need to add more.  Fish emulsion is a natural source of nitrogen.  As the garlic grows in the spring we’ll water periodically with a fish emulsion solution.  Garlic likes even moisture, not too wet and not too dry.

Soft neck garlic is ready for harvest when the first few leaves start to turn brown and become dry.  That is usually in early July.  Soft neck varieties are the best for braiding.

Hard neck garlic is a bit later.  It is ready when the stiff leaves or scapes become straight.  The scapes have become a delicacy for stir frying or a pesto base.  As the garlic becomes ready to harvest the scapes stiffen.

Knock off any loose soil and dry the garlic.  Keep it in a ventilated room out of the direct sun.  In a couple of weeks the skin will become papery and protect the bulb.  Soft neck varieties keep longer than the hard neck types.

Enjoy the flavor.  I don’t think I can cook a meal without garlic.


Tom has been offering garden advice on KUNC for almost two decades. During that time he has been the wholesale sales manager at Ft. Collins Nursery, Inc. Since January of 2005 he has been the owner and operator of Throgmorton Plant Management, LLC., a landscape installation and maintenance company as well as a horticultural consulting firm. He lives in northern Ft. Collins with his wife and two kids.
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