Growing Garlic - October 20, 1999
Jeff Schalau, County Director, Agent, Agriculture & Natural Resources
Arizona Cooperative Extension, Yavapai County
Garlic has been used as a culinary and medicinal herb since the time of the Egyptian pharaohs. A short list of garlic's medicinal properties include treatment for wounds, infections, tumors, intestinal parasites, the ability to lower cholesterol, and stimulate the immune system. Whether these properties are documented by science or not, I need no proof. I love garlic. Garlic is easy to grow and can be planted now for harvest next summer.
Most varieties of garlic can be divided into two general categories: those that send up a seedstalk (hardneck varieties) and those that don't (softneck varieties). Softneck varieties will sometimes send up a seedstalk if stressed for water. Hardneck types (subspecies ophioscorodon) include varieties like rocambole and continental. They are best suited to cooler climates and are larger and easier to peel. Softneck types (subspecies sativum) include varieties like Silverskin and Artichoke. These have been cultivated over a longer time period, are suited to a variety of climates, and hold up better in storage due to their tighter skins.
The best varieties for you depend on personal taste and gardening experience. Try a couple of different varieties each year until you find some that suit you best. For hardneck varieties try Spanish Roja, Carpathian, or German Red. These all produce large, easy to peel cloves and tend to be on the hot and spicy side. Some good softneck varieties are Inchelium Red, California Early, Chet's Italian, Mild French, and Silverskin. These are milder and produce smaller cloves. For something different, try growing elephant garlic. Not a true garlic, it is more closely related to the leek and needs a little more growing space than true garlics.
Garlic grows best in a rich, deep, sandy loam to clay loam soil with a pH between 6.0 and 8.0. As with most vegetable crops, adequate levels of nitrogen and phosphorus are critical for good production. Add 1/4 to 1/3 of a pound of actual nitrogen per 100 square feet. If composted steer manure is used, incorporate 12 to 17 pounds into a 10 x 10 foot garden plot. Apply roughly half of this amount if using chicken manure. If using ammonium sulfate, apply 1 to 1 2 pounds per 100 square feet. Additional applications of nitrogen can also be made in spring. This can be done with a side dressing of nitrogen fertilizer or top dressing of manure.
Phosphorus should be banded in the root zone to ensure availability to the roots. Add 1/5 to 1/4 lb of actual phosphate (P2O5) per 100 square ft of garden space. If using steer manure, the amount applied for nitrogen should contain almost enough phosphorus to meet the garlic plant's phosphorus needs. A liberal application of bone meal could be banded to ensure adequate supplies. If using triple super phosphate (0-45-0), band 2 to 3/4 pound per 40 feet of row.
Garlic should be planted in October. Select clean, dry bulbs, break them into individual cloves and plant the same day as divided. Plant 1 to 3 inches deep and 4 to 6 inches apart. Rows should be 12 to 18 inches apart. Irrigate immediately after planting. Garlic cloves require 4 to 6 weeks of cool weather (less than 40 degrees F) after planting to vernalize the plant so it will produce bulbs. During fall and winter, the bulb will produce roots and some top growth.
After the weather warms up in spring, long, strap-like leaves will emerge and lengthen. Keep plants well watered through spring and early summer. Top-setting garlic will produce seed stalks in late spring. These should be removed to allow energy to go into bulb formation. If the stalks are tender enough, you can eat them as a spicy green vegetable. In June to early July, leaves will turn brown and top will begin to fall. Irrigation should be stopped at this time to prevent rotting. To harvest, wait until top growth has dried. Loosen soil with a fork so that bulbs can be removed from soil. Home gardeners usually dry garlic in a shed of other dry location out of direct sun. It can be cleaned, then braided or simply trimmed and stored for later use.
The University of Arizona Cooperative Extension has publications and information on composting and vegetable crops. If you have other gardening questions, call the Master Gardener line in the Cottonwood office at 646-9113 or E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org and be sure to include your address and phone number.
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