October is time to plant garlic

09/29/2012 7:53 AM

09/29/2012 7:53 AM

The vegetable I’m most likely to forget to plant each year is garlic (stinking rose).

Although it’s planted at the end of the season, garlic ripens almost a year hence, in the heat of summer. Nonetheless, now is the time to plant it. Let’s examine the logic:

Garlic rarely makes seed, so it is grown by planting individual cloves, which together make up a bulb or “head.” After being planted, the cloves first grow leaves and roots and then, in response to the long days and warm temperatures of summer, heads. New leaves cease to develop once heads start forming; the more leaves the plant has pumped out before this occurs, the larger the heads.

Garlic comes in many varieties – 300 by one count – so look and ask around for what might be good to plant. Select a sunny site with soil that is rich, well-drained and weed-free.

Apply 3 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet and mix into the soil before planting or fertilize according to soil test, Ward Upham of Kansas State University advises. Don’t snap cloves off the heads until you’re ready to plant. When that time comes, select the largest and most blemish-free cloves and set them point up in planting holes 1 to 2 inches deep and 3 inches apart. Water in well and mulch with straw to conserve soil warmth and encourage good establishment, Upham says. “Harvest will not occur until next summer when most of the foliage has browned.”

Elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) has a milder garlic flavor and is more related to the leek and garlic, Upham says. It also should be planted now.

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