By Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
Last chance to plant your garlic! It is useful in the kitchen and easy to grow. Texas A&M AgriLife Extension recommends California Early, Elephant, Mexican Purple and French Mild Silverskin (Heirloom) as the best types for our area. It is best to plant more than one variety to see which one does best in your yard. The preferred method is to plant bulbs that are grown from seed stock. The garlic found at your local grocery store may not feature the quality or disease resistance needed.
First, pick a sunny location with well-drained soil. Next prepare the soil which needs to be loose and fertile before planting. Adding 2-3” of compost to your bed is recommended.
Now it is time to plant. Separate the cloves from the bulb. The thin, papery skin should be left on. Then set cloves 1-2” deep and about 6” apart. The root side should be down – the pointed end will be facing up.
Now fertilize with a high nitrogen fertilizer. Regular, even watering will yield the best crops and prevent the leaves from turning yellow (from over watering) and dying. Garlic will be one of the first things to come up in the spring.
Once the plants have sprouted, feed them every other week until about June 1. Water is crucial during the time the bulbs are forming in early summer. Four weeks prior to harvest the wrappers on the garlic bulbs start to dry out. Stop watering in July. Harvest at the end of July or early August when the lower third of the leaves have wilted but the tops are still green.
Once harvested, hang the bunches in a dry shady place for 3-4 weeks to cure. After they have dried, brush off loose soil, trim roots to ¼” and cut the stalks to 2” above the bulb.
Save the biggest cloves for replanting next year. Old timers say that garlic “learns” because it adapts to your growing conditions and improves each year.
As always, you can contact the AgriLife office in Ector at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information.