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Plant garlic now for a harvest next summer

My husband and I like to use excessive amounts of garlic in our recipes. We usually buy the braided strands from a local grower. This year we decided to try to grow some of our own garlic over the winter. We used some articles from The Ohio State University, and the newest fact sheet to get us started.

Now is the time to get serious about planting, as garlic can be planted between Halloween and Thanksgiving before the ground freezes. Reading up on the topic and selecting the right cultivars for your needs are great ways to get the plan together over the next few weeks.

Your soil needs to be well-drained because garlic does not like to be wet. Specific fertilization of the soil is important before planting and then again in the spring, with a pH in the range of 6.0 to 7.0. Remember you can take your soil to be tested at our local Mahoning County Extension Office. Read the specific directions at go.osu.edu/soiltesting

A garlic head has numerous cloves. You do not need to peel the individual cloves, but choose the biggest ones to plant. One OSU expert advises to soak the cloves in mineral oil solution (water, 2 percent mineral oil and 2 percent soap) for 16 hours and then a warm bleach solution (nine parts water, one part bleach) or alcohol for a few minutes before planting to kill mites or pathogens that could be on the garlic.

When you plant, the big end of the garlic clove should be down and the pointed end up. Press them into the soil so they stay upright and lightly cover with soil. Spacing should be four to six inches apart and two inches deep. Rows should be spaced one to two feet apart. Rows can be tighter if you do not have space as long as weeds are controlled and you don’t step on the planted cloves.

Cover them with mulch for protection over the winter. We covered ours with straw we have left over. Two to four inches should be sufficient. Mulched leaves can also be used.

Next May, look for curling scapes growing out of the ground when planting hard neck varieties. They should be cut off and they also can be eaten. Around July is when you want to start harvesting your garlic.

To cure the bulbs lay them in cool dark area that has good air circulation for about a month.

When growing in our Ohio area, it’s best to use varieties that are adapted to cold climates. Soft neck varieties normally have a longer storage life but grow better in warmer climates. These have the flexible stalk that can be braided. Hard neck varieties produce fewer cloves but are larger. They also have a shorter storage life but do better in our cooler weather conditions.

One OSU Extension expert states, “People grow garlic for many reasons: cooking, the health benefits such as antibiotic effects, antioxidant effects, and helping to reduce cholesterol and blood pressure.” I believe all of these are great reasons to plan garlic this fall.

Duda is an Ohio State University Mahoning County Extension Master Gardener Volunteer.

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