We have 5 useful tips on how to grow and care for garlic. Make sure you read them all!
Garlic is a great choice if you want to grow a healthy, versatile Allium species in your kitchen garden. Like onions, it prefers cooler weather; it needs cold in order for sets to develop cloves and, in the case of some varieties, for cell division to start at all. That is why the most optimal period for planting garlic is late autumn, or perhaps the beginning of winter, but definitely two weeks before the first frosts.
5 tips for growing garlic
1. Seeds or sets?
The germination rate of cultivated garlic seed is quite low. In fact, the seeds of most varieties are sterile, thanks to thousands of years of selection for certain positive characteristics, which have come at the expense of fertility. Nowadays, in the vast majority of cases, garlic is propagated from sets.
2. The planting depth of garlic depends on the weather in the winter months
First of all, you need healthy heads of garlic, which you must separate into cloves. Place the largest, healthiest cloves one by one in the planting pits, making sure that their root end is facing down. In areas where the winter is mild, the planting depth is only 2-3 cm, but where a harsh winter season with frosty days is expected, the planting depth should be 5-10 cm.
Note: the best solution is to buy garlic sets for planting. If you are trying to grow a variety that comes from a different climate than yours, it can take 2-3 years for the plant to acclimatize to the local conditions.
3. Plant a ground cover plant in the garlic bed
During the growing season of garlic, a little ground cover is useful. This is especially true if you expect a harsh winter. At the end of August or at the beginning of September, sow oats in the garlic bed. As the cold sets in, the oats dry out and become an excellent mulch for garlic. If the opposite were to happen, you could expect a weaker garlic crop due to live and vigorous oats, as the oats would absorb a good portion of the water and useful nutrients from the soil, which would otherwise be utilized by the garlic.
4. Prevent garlic from producing seeds
Most types of garlic will produce woody seed stalks over time. It is advisable to cut or break this, so that the plant does not waste its energy on producing seeds. If you leave it to produce seeds, this is at the expense of the size of the developing heads of garlic. The seed stalk should preferably be removed in sunny weather so that the wound on the surface of the plant dries faster. Do not throw the cut seed stalks on the compost pile – if you cut them while they are still tender, they can be used in the kitchen.
5. Do not over-fertilize garlic
Finally, one more important piece of advice: in order to promote the growth of garlic, you should apply a fertilizer with a high phosphorus content, such as fish meal. However, you should not overdo the fertilizing, otherwise the leaves of your garlic will grow big instead of the bulbs.