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Plant your own garlic

Four years ago, our son-in-law Rick introduced me to planting garlic. He brought over a garlic bulb, fertilizer, gave me instructions and said go for it.

My first harvest was 12 bulbs, and I thought, “What will I do with 12 garlic bulbs?” Now I’ve doubled how many I plant each year.

Garlic (Allium sativum L) is native to Central Asia, but is loved around the world. The annual per capital consumption of garlic is 2.0 pounds per person. That’s a lot of pasta sauce.

There are two classifications of garlic — hardneck and softneck — and more than 40 varieties.

Hardneck characteristics include larger but fewer cloves, cloves peel easily and produce a scape. A scape is a curlicue tip on a stem. This can be cut and used in cooking. If removed, the bulbs will grow larger. If allowed to remain, scapes become bulbil, which are little bulbs that produce garlic in two years.

Hardnecks do better in colder climates.

Softneck characteristic include smaller but more cloves, longer storage life, a flexible stalk good for braiding and they grow better in warmer climates.

Garlic prefers rich, loamy soil that is well drained, with a pH level of 6.5 to 7. Fall is the best time to plant garlic.

Just before planting, divide the bulb into individual cloves. Use only undamaged cloves. Plant cloves with the basal plate (flat part of the bulb) down pointed part up, spaced 4 to 6 inches apart and 2 to 3 inches deep. If planting large rows, make them 24 inches apart.

Garlic is a heavy feeder. Fertilize at planting and repeat in early spring and again just when scapes begin to appear. Place compost, mulch or straw around plants.

Roots develop and sometimes little stems appear before plants go dormant in winter. In spring, up come the plants.

It is important to control weeds. Weeding by hand is best.

Crop rotation and selecting healthy bulbs to plant are good preventive measures against pests.

It is time to harvest when three of the lower leaves dry and turn yellow. Dig up bulbs and be careful not to damage them. For curing, lay flat on a dry, well-ventilated shady area for two to four weeks at a temperature above freezing, but not higher than 40 degrees. Bulbs stored at 30 to 32 degrees will keep approximately 12 months; if kept at 55 to 58 degrees, seven months. Humidity is important and should be kept around 60 to 70 percent.

Buy bulbs at a garden center or online. Prices vary considerably. I use my largest bulbs to replant.

Happy planting. To learn more about growing garlic, go to http://go.osu.edu/garlic.

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