Garlic is one of our favorite crops to grow. Delicious in every season and marvelously medicinal, garlic is also easy to grow. If I had to pick only a handful of crops to grow each season, garlic would always be one. Always.
Garlic swells from the size of a dime to a full-size bulb in ~5 short weeks, from early June to mid-July. June is the time to give her all you've got :)
Small bulbs are most commonly the result of nutrient deficiency and weed pressure, so here are easy ways to ensure you have abundant nutrients and manageable weeds to optimize your garlic harvest this season!
Garlic is a heavy feeder, requiring lots of nutrients to grow large and store long.
Here are the best times and ways to ensure your garlic has full access to abundant nutrients:
- Add rich fertility when you prepare your soil to plant in fall. We love to add mature compost as well as our organic granular fertilizer.
- Mulch with deciduous leaves in fall, spring, or both. Just make sure you put them through a chipper/shredder first, especially in fall, so you don't inhibit the garlic's growth as well as the weeds.
A little fish emulsion goes a long way in boosting plant health, abundance and nutrient density.
- In May and June, foliar feed your garlic (and everything else, for that matter) with compost tea, worm castings tea or our favorite, Fish and Seaweed Emulsion. Apply the diluted emulsion (one ounce in one gallon of water) as either foliar spray or root drench every 10 to 14 days to bring a broad spectrum of macro- and micro-nutrients to your garlic. May and June are the key months to be supplementing with foliar feeds. We prefer fish plus seaweed emulsion, compared to pure fish emulsion, for it's more balanced vegetative growth for our garlic bulbs.
Look for yellowing leaf tips, especially on the lowest leaves. Yellowing indicates that your garlic is taking nutrients from those lowest leaves to feed new growth, since it isn't accessing those essential nutrients from the soil. Bring on the fish emulsion :)
Hungry garlic has yellowing leaf tips, especially on the lowest leaves.
The long, narrow leaves of garlic don't shade the weeds below, making weeds grow fast and mulching essential.
Weed early and often, every ten days to two weeks, if you don't plan on mulching.
- Weed consistently and well, every ten days to two weeks, and your garlic will thrive! Weeding this often means you're eliminating smaller weeds, which take much less time to weed than huge weeds, so it doesn't take as much time as you may expect. If you plan to use this method, just be sure you plant each garlic clove at least five inches under the ground to prevent frost-heaving from killing your crop.
- Planting garlic into Biotella, biodegradable black mulch, is actually a great option. The mulch will reduce frost-heaving and warm the soil in spring, inspiring your garlic to grow that much faster. You'll have complete weed suppression all season long, though you'll likely need to hand-weed each of the holes once in spring, as the garlic is establishing.
Word to the wise: Straw often has seeds of the grain it grew. This garlic is also growing a crop of wheat.
- Mulch like you mean it. You have many great options for other mulches. Our go-to is straw. Hay, even old, moldy hay, is a great choice, as well. Grass clippings are awesome. Shredded deciduous leaves are the dream of the dream. Whatever you use, just be sure it has a minimum of seeds and that you put it on THICK! A six-inch layer of mulch will provide great weed suppression for you. If you mulch in fall, you'll reduce frost-heaving and know you'll likely need to add more mulch in spring, the earlier the better, to ensure you'll never have to weed. The weeds that do grow up in your mulch must be hand-weeded, so it definitely pays to the mulch mantra of early and often.
Regatuso is our favorite soft-neck garlic with massive bulbs, rich aroma and mild pungency.
Take care of your garlic and your garlic will take care of you in all seasons, Friends!
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