Plant Garlic This Fall

Do you use a lot of garlic in your cooking? If so you might try growing your own. Fall is the best time to plant garlic in your garden.

Garlic is a hardy bulb, and thus is best planted in the fall when other bulbs, such as tulips and daffodils, are planted. October is the ideal time in this part of Illinois. With garlic, new plants are grown from the individual sections of the bulb known as "cloves." Each bulb may contain a dozen or more cloves, depending on the variety.

Now is the time to purchase garlic for planting. Be sure to buy it from a reliable garden center or mail-order source. Storage temperature of the dormant garlic affects the bulbing of the future plants. Temperatures above 77 degrees F may inhibit bulb formation, so using garlic from the grocery is ill-advised for planting purposes. Garlic that has been stored at about 40 degrees F for several months is ideal for starting a new planting.

After planting, the individual cloves will begin to root and sprout before cold weather begins. Plants will over winter in this vegetative state. In the first thaw of spring, the plants will begin their luxuriate growth.

Garlic grows best in fertile soil that is high in organic matter. Gardeners that grow good onion crops can grow good garlic. Apply 3 pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet.

Fall planted garlic will begin forming bulbs the next June. Bulbs can be dug when the tops start to yellow, usually in July or August.

Bulbs are placed in a dark, airy place with moderate temperature to cure and dry. Tops and roots are allowed to remain on the drying bulbs. Throughout the digging and storage operations, it should be remembered that the bulbs are living things that must be handled with care for best storage and quality. Any small bruise may cause the whole bulb to spoil in storage. Unless garlic is to be used for braiding, tops and roots should be removed once bulbs are cured and dry.

You can also grow garlic in the form of scallions. Topsets or small cloves are planted fairly thickly in a row and the green plants dug, cleaned, and bunched like green onions. The whole plant, tops and all, is then chopped into dishes for flavor.

If you like the taste of garlic, you might also try growing garlic chives. Garlic chives (Allium tuberosum) is a perennial plant and grows very similar to chives with flat leaves like leek and garlic. The flavor is very much like garlic, and the tops are harvested like the regular chives. Garlic chive has white flowers and grows taller than regular chives.

Enjoy your garlic! Not only is it good to eat, but it keeps the vampires away.