Fall is the perfect time to plant heirloom organic garlic for an early summer harvest. Planting in the fall helps to build strong, healthy root systems and the results will be apparent when it comes harvest time. Garlic has long been heralded for its rich, distinctive flavor. But it is also known for its medicinal benefits as well.
If you are not planting heirloom organic garlic then you may be missing out on these benefits. Garlic that has been genetically modified is not the same as heirloom garlic and may not even be properly digested by your body.
Garlic is prone to fungal infestations and unfortunately it typically goes unnoticed until it is too late. But by taking a few precautionary steps prior to planting you can help to eliminate these. Fungus and even mites can hide in the peel and the only way to dislodge them is to peel the skin off. This is a step that takes too much time for most commercial growers but the few minutes it will take us is time well spent. After you have peeled the skin off, soak your cloves in a mixture of baking soda overnight. A rounded tablespoon in a couple cups of distilled water will do just fine. Drain your cloves the next morning and set them on a towel to air dry. For an added measure of protection, briefly soak the cloves in 100 proof vodka. Three minutes will suffice. Drain, let air dry and then plant immediately. Both of these remedies are approved methods for organic growers by the National Organic Program (NOP)
Garlic has the same basic requirements as roses. They both grow best in soil that is high in organic matter and well drained. A raised bed amended with compost is an ideal place to plant. They will require full sun and ample moisture levels throughout the growing season but avoid soaking them.
You want to plant each clove, flat end down at four to six to inches apart (eight inches between rows) at a depth of one to two inches.
After you have finished planting go back over the area and mulch them with at least four inches of grass clippings, leaves or hay. This will help protect them from freezing during the winter. It is better to err on the side of caution with a bit too much rather than too little.
In the spring when you see the first new leaves appearing, be prepared to top dress your beds with a layer of fully composted organic matter. If the compost has not be cured adequately it may burn the tender young leaves.
In the early summer after the temperatures get warm and consistent the leaf growth will slow as the plant sends energy to growing the bulbs. During this time you want to cut back on the watering so the bulbs do not get moldy or stained.
You can tell when it is time to start harvesting when the stalks have died back about half way. Use a garden fork or small spade to get well under the bulbs and loosen the soil as you gently pull the bulbs free.
After harvesting your crop, hang them upside down in your garage or a storage shed out of direct sunlight. If they are exposed to sunlight they will have a tendency to burn. Your bulbs will be fully cured in 2-3 weeks. If you are experiencing excessive humidity use a fan for air circulation
If it is too late for fall planting of heirloom organic garlic in your zone, don't worry because you will be ready to start this spring. You will still be able to grow and harvest a wonderful crop, just not as soon as your southern cousins. Simply follow these instructions after the frost has passed and you will be on your way to a healthy, fungal free harvest.
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