The activity: Planting garlic in the fall will yield a summer harvest.
When: Garlic should be planted around mid-October in the Pikes Peak region. Harvest will be in July.
Why: Growing your own garlic is easy, does not require much space and will allow you to try varieties not available in the grocery store. You can choose between hardneck and softneck varieties.
Garlic (Allium sativum) is a member of the onion family. It is a perennial with an underground bulb that is valued as a culinary plant. Garlic can be used raw, which will emphasize its pungent quality, or roasted, which yields a sweeter, less pungent flavor.
Hardneck varieties produce a scape or flower. Because the plant uses energy to produce the flower, the cloves tend to be smaller. Cutting off the flowers can enhance clove size. The scapes are flavorful and can be harvested to prepare an unusual tasty treat. Hardnecks also produce very little parchment on the cloves, making them less difficult to peel, but they do not store as long. They are, however, known for superior flavor.
Softnecks are the varieties you buy in the grocery store. They are generally white to off white and develop large cloves. They do not produce a flower. Because they have more parchment on the cloves they store better than the hardnecks.
How: Purchase the initial garlic head for planting at a garden center. In future years, you can replant your garlic from the prior year harvest. Gently separate the cloves; it is not necessary to peel them. An optional step to enhance production is a pre-planting "dip." Dilute 2 tablespoons of liquid kelp in a gallon of water and dip each clove before planting. Plant each clove pointy side up, 3 inches deep and 4 inches apart. Garlic prefers slightly acidic, well drained soil. The addition of organic matter is helpful.
The cloves should be covered with soil and then mulched with leaves or wood chips (avoid aspen or poplar leaves). Keep the area moist even through the winter.
The bulbs may sprout in the fall, which is not a problem. They should still survive the winter. In spring, when the bulbs have started growing, fertilize regularly and keep the area weed free. The bulbs will be harvested in July when the foliage starts to dry out. Once you harvest the bulbs, hang them to dry in a cool, dry and preferably dark location. Bon app?it!
Get answers to your horticulture questions by calling a master gardener volunteer at 520-7684 or emailing CSUmg2@elpasoco.com. Volunteers are available on Mondays and Wednesdays from 9 a.m. to noon.