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Six Easy Steps For Growing Garlic

Susy Morris
Flickr - Creative Commons

Garlic planted along the Front Range in the autumn is ready for harvest the following July. Like spring flowering bulbs garlic will set roots and start growing 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.

  • Planting garlic is similar to planting potatoes. Crack the bulbs and plant the individual cloves. Keep the papery skin on the cloves to protect them at planting. 
  • The garlic cloves should be about six inches apart and a couple inches deep. That provides room to cultivate so weeds don’t take over. Mulching the area with compost during the winter months holds in moisture and prevents the freeze-thaw cycle.   
  • Garlic is a heavy feeder and likes nitrogen fertilizer. The compost will add some nutrients but it will need more. Fish emulsion is a natural source of nitrogen. Alpha One organic fertilizer works well with garlic.   
  • Harvest time comes when the first few leaves start to turn brown and become dry, usually in early July. Softneck varieties are the best for braiding. These are most commonly found in grocery stores.
  • The more pungent Hardneck garlic, closer to its wild cousin, is ready when the stiff leaves or scapes become straight. The scapes have their own unique flavor and can be used 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 protects the bulb. Softneck varieties keep longer than the hardneck types. 

The flavor of garlic complements any meal and harvesting it directly from the garden requires some patience, but is well worth the wait.

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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