Master Gardener: The wonder of garlic and fall planting
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
When I began planting hardneck garlic five years ago, it became my most rewarding vegetable to cultivate. I was given three bulbs with five cloves each; those 15 cloves multiplied into a regular harvest of 50 bulbs, giving an ample supply of garlic to eat and to replant each year.
Garlic is harvested between the end of July and mid-August, giving enough time to cure, sort and replant. For those who don’t know, garlic is planted in the fall. Fall planting gives the garlic a head start, with our short growing season that is very important. I let the full moon of September be my reminder that it’s time get them in the ground. Bulbs from this year’s harvest with the largest cloves have been set aside to plant — bigger cloves, bigger bulbs.
Begin by amending garlic beds with compost and composted manure. Garlic likes loamy soil. Just before planting, crack the bulb, separating the cloves carefully, keeping the skin on. Garlic cloves are planted 3 to 4 inches deep and six inches apart with the pointed end up. Top dress with mulch. Water moderately to get the plants going if no precipitation is aiding you. Then let winter come and nature take its course. Garlic is one of the first things to emerge in the spring.
Out of the center of hardneck varieties grows a stalk called a scape, which will flower and make bulbils, garlic seed. When the scape has made two loops and points straight up, cut it off to send more energy into the bulb, developing below the soil. Scapes can be used as you would garlic. Try making Scape Pesto.
Mid-July gently push dirt away from the bulb underground and check the size of your garlic cloves. If the leaves have started to die back, stop watering. In about two weeks after, you can harvest.
Lift the bulbs carefully from the soil with a flat spade. Gently dust off most of the dirt, leave the roots on, hang in bundles of 5 to 6 bulbs in a warm dry place with good air circulation. When the wrappers have dried, cut the stalk to 2 inches above the bulb. Trim the roots off. Brush away the outer layer to reveal the clean silvery pearl bulb. Store in a cool dry place for use throughout the coming year.
Ellyn Myller belongs to the 2017 Class of Master Gardeners. “You never know what’s going on beneath the soil; digging up potatoes makes me giggle. I’m grateful for the garlic and beets this year, too. The grasshoppers didn’t decimate them.”
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