Planting Garlic in the Fall for Next Year

Garlic is an excellent addition to a wide variety of foods, adding a unique flavor and punching up the taste to many bland dishes. With over 600 subvarities, growing garlic from home can be fun, supplying you with enough for the whole year ahead and then some. Although there are some challenges, taking the time to learn a few facts about planting garlic will help you create a successful harvest.


Choosing Your Garlic

There are two main categories of garlic- softneck and hardneck. While there are some similarities between the two types, there are distinct differences making it relatively easy to tell the two apart. Softneck garlic is commonly grown in warm climates and has large, distinctive cloves. Generally, this is the type of garlic you see in the supermarket.

Hardneck garlic is traditionally grown in colder climates and although it tends to produce fewer cloves, farmers claim that it has a more robust taste than softneck garlic. As a result, it is a favorite among Michigan garlic farmers.


Why Plant in the Fall?

In Michigan, if you intend to grow garlic, the best time to plant is in the fall for the following year. Why so far ahead? Simple. It takes a long time for garlic to grow good roots. Once the soil temperature reaches 60 degrees F, the roots of the garlic cloves will start to germinate, begin to take hold and anchor the plant. In Michigan, if the ground freezes before the roots have developed, the garlic plant will heave itself out of the ground. Applying mulch after the first freeze will help control heaving. So go ahead, plant in the fall, because generally, your garlic won’t be ready to harvest until mid to late summer.


Ideal Growing Conditions

Before planting, separate your garlic into cloves, making certain to keep the papery layer around the clove intact. Try to choose the larger cloves for planting and reserve the smaller ones for eating. When choosing a location, remember that garlic does best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade fairly well.


Your Soil should be loose and loamy with moderate to heavy organic matter with a pH somewhere between 6.0 and 7.0.  You want your soil moist, but not waterlogged. Loamy soil that combines equal parts of sand, silt and clay works best. Loamy soil keeps moisture in, but drains well to allow air to reach the roots. Remember, mulch may also be helpful for keeping soil moist and moderating temperatures. This is particularly important in Michigan where colder weather can result in winterkill. Straw, hay, chopped leaves, even plastic make suitable mulch. While there are a variety of things to make proper mulch, most Michigan farmers prefer straw because it’s inexpensive, easy to find and easy to remove. Visit Uncle Luke’s Feed Store to find the mulching material that will work best for you.


Proper spacing is also important for growing garlic successfully. However, there are a couple of different thoughts as far as planting is concerned. Everyone agrees that you plant your garlic clove with the pointed end facing up into the soil.  However, some farmers believe that placing bulbs close together will produce more garlic. Others argue that close positioning results in smaller cloves. Nevertheless, normal spacing is cloves around 5 inches apart with 20 inches or so between rows for larger bulbs. Additionally, try to plant 2 inches deep if you plan to mulch, and a little deeper (3 to 4 inches) if you don’t plan to mulch.


Growing fantastic garlic is easy with a few tips.  Planting in the fall for the following year gives your garlic time to grow sturdy, solid roots which keep it firmly anchored in the ground. The soil is cold in the winter, particularly in Michigan, making it even more important to choose the right mulch and planting materials. Find everything you need to grow the most amazing garlic at Uncle Luke’s Feed Store. Have fun and get planning that menu, you’ve got some garlic to try!

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