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Johnson County

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Johnson County
11811 S. Sunset Drive
Suite 1500
Olathe, KS 66061

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(913) 715-7000
(913) 715-7005 fax

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Garlic Planting

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It’s that time of the year when most crops in the fruit and vegetable garden are being pulled up or covered over in preparation for harsh winter conditions. And some of us have already taken extra care to unearth flowering bulbs (e.g. lilie, canna, dahlia, etc.) and store them inside to ensure future planting. But there is one bulb crop commonly planted this time of year and if you read the title of this article then you know I’m talking about garlic! Planting garlic (Allium sativum), a crop native to Central Asia and grown for more 5,000 years, is the quintessential fall garden activity. There are so many unique and flavorful varieties accessible to growers that are seldom offered for consumers to purchase.

Because garlic plants rarely produce seed, new bulb propagation is done by planting single whole clove. Fall planting (October-November) is best for our regional climate as bulb development is highly dependent on day length (photoperiod) and temperature. It takes about a 1-2 months at 40F to stimulate garlic to grow a new plant that will bulb. Fall planting provides necessary cold period and early growth in spring to produce large enough aboveground growth to support new bulb development. Plant will be ready for harvest in late June to early July.

Spring planting is possible but can be risky if weather delays your ability to get into the garden early enough. Moreover, nurseries are more likely to carry seed garlic (i.e. cloves) in the fall. Research from K-State in Manhattan show that planting dates ranging from September 24th thru November 24th resulted in consistently good bulb size and yield, while plantings from late December thru February correlated with decreasing average bulb size.

When selecting your seed, there are two main categories to choose from, Hardneck and Softneck. Softneck varieties have no central seedstalk, tops can be braided, usually stores longer, are less winter hardy, are not as flavorful. Hardneck varieties have a solid central seedstalk, more uniform cloves, larger and easier to peel cloves, more variations in color, unique flavor differences, and are very winter hardy.

Seed will usually come as whole bulbs. Although it varies between varieties, one pound of garlic can plant 30 feet of row. Gently separate cloves (keeping the paper like outer layer intact). Select large garlic cloves that are uniform and firm. Plant cloves 2-3 inches deep into loose soil with the pointed end covered but going up. Space cloves 4-5 inches apart within each row and put 8-10 inches of space between rows. This is also generally a good time to take a soil test which will help you determine your fertility needs for your garlic and next season’s veggie plantings.

Mulching with straw is not required but can promote better growing conditions When you apply the mulch, sprinkle a little loose soil over the mulch and wet it down.  This will prevent the loose mulch from blowing away. After a rain, the mulch will settle in around the plants and will remain in place through the rest of the winter.

Hope this encourages some of you to plant garlic this year. Look for next summer’s primer on garlic harvest and curing!



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Have questions? The Garden Hotline is staffed by trained EMG volunteers and Extension staff who will assist you with questions.

Phone: (913) 715-7050

Email: garden.help@jocogov.org