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Buried Treasures- Growing Garlic

Garlic is a member of the allium family. This includes onions, garlic, chives and shallots. When planting a garlic clove it produces an underground bulb.

I live in Wisconsin, so this means I need to plant my garlic cloves during September or October to allow the cloves to produce a root system. They start to grow green tops before winter but stop growing as the frost arrives.

Before planting I chose a spot that receives full sun and work plenty of rich organic material into my heavy clay soil. I have learned over the course of the years that heavy soil produces funny shaped garlic. Clay soil makes the cloves work hard to grow, producing smaller, odd shaped bulbs. Taking the extra time to loosen and add organic material into my soil produces better crops in my garden.

To plant garlic pick a bulb that has large cloves. Break apart the bulb into individual cloves. Pick the largest cloves to plant. Leave the outside paper intact. Plant the clove pointed side up. The larger the clove the larger the garlic bulb will be.

Plant the clove 1-2 inches deep in areas with mild winters. In my case I need to plant mine 3-4 inches deep. Spacing each planted clove 6 inches apart with 12 inches between rows.

Spread a layer of straw over the planted area and water well. Make sure the cloves stay moist until frost sets in.

In the spring make sure the cloves stay moist. Fertilize in early spring. In the summer when the leaves start to yellow hold off on watering to prevent rot.

Bulbs are ready to harvest when half or better of the leaves are yellow and fall over. Lift them out of the soil using a pitch fork.

Brush away all the soil on the bulb leaving the bottom roots intact. Lay the garlic out in a shaded are for 2 weeks to let it dry out throughly. The outer layer will feel dry and papery.

Cut of the stem leaving a 1/2 inch stem and store in a mesh bag. I purchased a small mesh laundry bag at the store. You could also recycle old nylon stockings too.

I have found that stored garlic tends to keep for an average of 9 months. It generally disappears in my cooking before that.

Garlic is one of the easiest vegetables to grow. It just takes time and patience. Planning ahead and planting a fall crop will produce a summer harvest.

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