by Don Janssen, Extension Educator
If you planted garlic last spring in a well drained soil, controlled weeds and provided plenty of water during dry weather, problems might have been due to the source of your planting stock and/or the planting time. For best results with garlic, plant in the fall.
Ideally, it should be planted about six weeks before the ground freezes. This is usually sometime in early October. Garlic planted in fall produces larger yields than spring-planted crops.
Home gardeners tempting to separate bulbs of garlic from the supermarket and plant these may be disappointed. Bulbs sold for home use have been stored at temperatures near 32 degrees F, which causes physiological changes that reduce yield and quality.
Buy planting stock from a reputable source that can provide specific cultivars free of disease and nematodes. Cultivars that have performed well in variety trials include ‘Music’, ‘German White’ and ‘Polish Softneck’.
Quality bulbs for planting will be free of signs of mold under the skin and between the cloves, and the root plate -- the area where the roots attach to the bulb -- will not be discolored or soft. Store planting stock at 50 degrees F and no more than 60 percent humidity for best results.
Plant in any well drained soil after controlling annual and perennial weeds. Garlic is prone to the same disease and insect problems as onions, so avoid planting where onions have been grown in the past two years. Separate bulbs into cloves just before planting so they don’t dry out. If you want to produce large bulbs, plant cloves 2 to 4 inches deep and 4 inches apart in double rows 12 inches apart with 36 inches between rows. Plant with the root plate down.
There is a direct correlation between clove size and resulting bulb size. Larger cloves produce larger bulbs.
Apply nitrogen in the fall and twice in the spring before May 1 to promote vigorous vegetative growth. No more is necessary after plants begin to form bulbs, usually in mid-May.
Garlic requires 1 to 2 inches of water per week. Though garlic needs adequate moisture after bulbing, the greatest effect of water occurs when growth is most rapid -- from March to May.
Garlic bulbs are usually harvested in July, after 30 to 50 percent of the leaves have died back. Harvest during dry weather and leave the bulbs on the ground to dry for a few days to a week. Then store in mesh sacks or shallow containers in a well ventilated area to cure. For home use, store cured garlic bulbs near 32 degrees F at 65 to 70 percent humidity. For planting stock, allow bulbs to mature longer in the garden, then harvest, cure and store at no lower than 50 degrees F and 60 percent humidity.
For information on Using Herbs in Cooking, visit the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in Lancaster County Food Safety and Nutrition Web site - Here.
University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension in Lancaster County is your on-line yard and garden educational resource. The information on this Web site is valid for residents of southeastern Nebraska. It may or may not apply in your area. If you live outside southeastern Nebraska, visit your local Extension office