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Preparing a crop of garlic for a later summer harvest begins in the autumn. This easy-to-grow crop is a great addition to the over-wintering vegetable garden.
Garlic likes a free-draining sandy loam, with lots of organic matter. Organic matter adds nutrients and keeps the soil well aerated. The higher the organic matter content, the bigger the bulbs for harvest. Organic matter can be increased by adding compost or well-rotted manure to the soil. The soil should have a pH between 6.5 and 7.
When selecting cloves for planting, store-bought garlic may not be the best option. Check out your local garden centre or plant nursery for bulb packs that will be suited to the local climate conditions.
Garlic cloves must be planted three to six weeks before the first autumn frost before the ground freezes over. If you are in an area where the ground does not freeze over, the cloves can be planted as late as mid-winter.
If you have missed the first frost and the ground is frozen, cloves can be planted into seed punnets or trays. These must be transferred into the ground as soon as it defrosts to ensure a well-developed root system.
Garlic cloves must be planted about 2 inches below the soil surface, pointy end facing up. The cloves can be planted in a row 4 inches apart. These rows must be spaced between 10 and 14 inches apart.
If you are in an area with heavy frost, the garlic should be covered in a straw mulch layer for winter. As soon as the frost has passed, the mulch can be removed. In the first two months of spring, the garlic cloves should be generously fertilized with bone meal, chicken manure or even a general garden fertilizer.
During the last month of spring, all fertilization must be discontinued, and the cloves watered twice a week. Decrease watering during summer. Any flowers that form must be cut away to ensure all the plant’s energy is put into bulb formation.
Garlic can be harvested relatively early in spring and eaten like green onions. If nice big garlic bulbs are what you are after, allow them to mature until mid-summer. By then the tops should have yellowed and fallen over, but not allowed to dry completely.
Dig up a single bulb; the head should be clearly divided into cloves while being covered in a dry, papery wrapping. Remove dirt while keeping the wrapping intact. Cut off the roots and tops. Store bulbs in a cool, dark and dry place. Garlic that is stored properly should last a year!
Garlic is a versatile, essential ingredient to many cuisines and recipes. As well as being one of the easiest vegetables to grow, it’s a must-have for your vegetable garden.
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