Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Preparing to Plant Garlic

I work for a weekly newspaper. On Tuesdays, we finish putting the paper together so it can go to the printer, then the post office, and then be in people's mailboxes on Friday. Yesterday, we had a hole on the food page, and poking through the press releases and emails from all our subscription services didn't turn up anything that seemed like a good fit for that page.

After a fairly long search for a food-related news item, I decided to just write something about food to go on the page, but I'm a better gardener than chef, so I wrote about growing garlic, which should be planted in October in North Georgia.

Then, at the last minute, an ad came in for that space, and my little piece didn't get used. Since I have it handy, I am putting it here:

Garlic in the garden

In the Bible (Numbers 11:5), the absence of garlic and other good foods that were easily had in Egypt is lamented: “We remember the fish we ate in Egypt at no cost - also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic.”

Although free fish is still hard to come by, many vegetables can be grown at home for fairly low cost. The vegetables mentioned are mostly summer crops, but not garlic.

Garlic in the Atlanta area performs best when planted in mid- to late-October, so now is the time to plan for planting for next year's low-cost garlic.

Garlic prefers, like nearly every other garden plant, a soil that is well-drained, with plenty of organic matter worked into it. Organic matter includes materials such as compost, soil conditioners or well-rotted manures.

The soil pH should be between 6 and 7.

If a soil test is not done (through a local County Extension office, for example) to get specific fertilizer recommendations for the garden, apply a 10-10-10 fertilizer, using three pounds per 100 square feet of space. Proportionately, that works out to 0.75 pounds of fertilizer for 25 square feet, which is a more likely home-garden space allotment for garlic.

To start planting, the heads of garlic, which can be purchased at the grocery store, need to be pulled apart. The cloves are planted individually, still in their papery wrappers, three to four inches apart. They go in the ground pointy end up, the tip about one inch below the surface. The fat cloves from the outer layers usually result in the biggest bulbs.

After planting, the garlic needs an even amount of moisture.

Sometime in June, when the leaves begin to dry and fall over, no more watering is needed. The bulbs will be ready to harvest when most of the leaves are pretty far along in this process and the bulbs (dig down to find a few) contain nicely differentiated cloves.

The garlic should be mature and ready to dig up in late June or early July.

In my own garden, the work of preparing the soil for my garlic and multiplying onions will begin this week. I've set aside my largest bulbs of garlic from this summer's harvest for planting.

The Rabun County garlic, for which I had only one clove to plant last year, made a nice fat bulb that I will split with my friend who gave me the original clove. Hers didn't do as well as mine, and we want to increase the chances that we don't lose the variety. If I remember correctly, it was given to her as one big bulb from a woman in Rabun County, Georgia, whose family had been growing this garlic for several decades.


  1. Wow, would love to get on any list you might have for one of those cloves:) I could trade a sweet potato that came from just above Blue Ridge. It's a beauregard type that we just acquired last season. Ours should be ready soon. I just signed up for your newsletter, so hopefully you can contact via that info. Kathy Harper

  2. Hi Kathy -- There's no list for the garlic, but I would be happy to mail you a little. It needed a colder winter than the one we had last year, so some of the bulbs consist of just one, enormous clove. Let me know where to send it.

    If your sweet potatoes are actually Beauregard, I already grow that one. I also have Purple Delight, Porto Rican Gold, and Annie Hall, and a friend just dropped by a couple of sweets from his own field of two varieties I haven't tried yet -- Covington and Alabama Red. If yours is different, I would love to try it. Don't worry, though, about a trade. I am happy to share.

    (I don't have access to contact information for the people who sign up for email delivery of the posts. I don't even know how many people are on the list! I added the feature so my Mom could more easily keep up with my blog. I'm at amygwh at g mail dot com -- all slammed back together and changed to standard format.)


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