Garlic can grow almost anywhere in continental Europe. This perennial plant adapts well to the cold of winter and, depending on region, a number of varieties can be easily be grown successfully. Growing garlic is very tempting for several reasons: the early harvest, the yield (4.5 lbs or 2 kg of seeds are sufficient to take care of your annual consumption needs as well as the following season’s seed supply), but also the plant’s medicinal properties.

How to choose the appropriate seeds and when to plant are a few of the many questions that arise in the minds of curious gardeners. Here are some answers to help you plant garlic in the best possible manner.

Description and origin of garlic

Garlic is a perennial bulb that belongs to the same family as onion and leek, namely the Liliaceae or lily family. It is native to central Asia and well-acclimatized to the weather conditions of continental Europe. Garlic bulbs are harvested in summer and are well-known for their medicinal and culinary properties. Garlic has been cultivated for over six thousand years.

The choice of seeds

Choosing the seeds well is crucial because it will determine the crop’s success. It is strongly advised against using garlic cloves intended for consumption. These cloves sometimes come from distant regions and are not adapted to local soils. Apart from the risk of virus transmission, some of these varieties are not able to germinate in Europe. There are two types of garlic: white garlic and pink garlic. The first category consists of white bulb varieties and are ideally planted in autumn. On the other hand, the second category is made up of varieties with small pink bulbs that can be preserved for extended periods of time. The latter category, also called “spring garlic”, can be planted in February or March. A dozen varieties of garlic are available in garden centres.

Growing techniques and maintenance

Garlic can be propagated by seeds or bulbs, also known as bulbils. However, we suggest planting bulbs, which is the simpler and more common alternative. Depending on the variety, garlic can be planted in the fall or spring. We recommend planting in autumn, between September 15 and October 15, as it generally guarantees a better yield. Garlic is ideally planted in rather light and somewhat calcareous soil, although sandy land can also prove to be suitable. In any case, avoid overly rich or moist land, as it may cause the bulbs to rot. The plot of land does not require any special preparation. If you want to make manure amendments, make sure that it is dry and completely decomposed.

Separate the bulbils that make up the garlic head and get rid of the ones that are malformed or covered in spots. Bulbils do not require any special treatment. Plant them 2 to 5 inches (5 to 10 cm) deep, leaving a 4.5-inch (12 cm) space between seedlings. The rows of cloves will need to be spaced 10 to 12 inches (25 to 30 cm) apart from each other. Each clove is planted alone, with the germ (the point) pointed up, and the flattened base facing down. The cloves are then gently covered with earth. After planting, mulch the plot of land with hay, bark or dead leaves to protect the plant against frost during winter. On average, this kind of crop yields a production equivalent to about 4 times the weight of the seeds. Thus, for 2.2 lbs (1 kg) of seeds, your harvest will be about 4.5 pounds (2 kg).

In spring, the layer of mulch is removed to allow the seedlings to germinate and grow. Garlic does not require maintenance or special treatment, nonetheless, a series of fungicidal treatment is recommended as a preventive measure to prevent the attacks of powdery mildew, blight or anthracnose. An insecticide can also be applied since garlic is not immune to nematodes or the onion fly. If the soil drains well, watering can be regular, yet in moderate quantities, to stimulate the clove’s growth. Towards the end of June, the garlic flowers can be harvested in order to direct all of the energy intake towards the bulbs’ development.

Collecting and storing garlic

Harvesting takes place early in the season. Garlic leaves start to fade at the end of July or in early August, at which point you can proceed to grubbing. Let the harvest dry once it has been unearthed. It can be left on the ground and exposed to the sun for a period of two to three days, or be spread out in a well-ventilated area for one to two weeks. The stems can then be cut off or plaited. The best way to preserve garlic is to leave it hanging in nets, in a ventilated, cool (54-64 ° F, 12-18 ° C) and dry location. Do not leave garlic in the refrigerator, as this can cause germination. In the best conditions, garlic can be preserved a whole year.

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Published in Root vegetables by Alexander on 07 Sep 2011