What adds flavor to food and is fun to grow? Garlic is used in many recipes.

In Kentucky, it is best to plant garlic in October and early November. It needs cool temperatures and short day length for leaf growth. When the weather is warmer and the day length increases, the leaves stop growing, and the bulb begins to form. Spring-planted garlic produces less than fall-planted garlic.

To get started at this time of year, garlic bulbs are available mainly from catalogs or online. They should be disease free for the best production potential.

When selecting garlic, Allium sativum, for your garden, it is usually divided into two subspecies, ophioscordon, hardneck or top set garlic, and sativum, softneck garlic.

Hardneck garlic produces flower stalks, called scapes, and bulbils at the top of the stalk. Softneck garlic usually does not produce bulbils and develops larger bulbs with more cloves per bulb. The softneck garlic leaves are flexible and easy to braid. Softneck garlic keeps longer in storage than hardneck garlic.

However, in Kentucky, hardneck garlic cultivars usually do better and produce larger cloves that are easier to peel.

The garlic bulb consists of cloves, which are used for propagation. Starting garlic from bulbils is more difficult and requires two years to produce mature bulbs.

Elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) is not a true garlic, but more of a pungent leek, and has a milder flavor than garlic. The bulb resembles garlic with very large cloves.

Planting and care of garlic is similar to onions, but garlic is more exacting in its requirements. An open, sunny location with fertile, well-drained soil that is high in organic matter is desirable.

Add good air circulation and garlic is relatively carefree in this type of site. Thrips and onion maggots are insects to watch for while the bulbs are growing. Bulb rot may be a problem if the soil is not well-drained.

Plant individual cloves from a bulb, root end down, and cover with 2 to 3 inches of well-drained soil. Allow 6 inches between cloves. They can also be planted in a raised bed, which promotes good soil drainage, reduces soil compaction, and makes harvest easier.

Apply a mulch, such as straw, over the cloves to help provide winter protection and conserve moisture during summer. Check the mulch to make sure it is not holding too much water during periods of wet, cool weather. If it is, pull the mulch back to let the soil dry and warm, as long as freezing temperatures are not predicted.

Fertilizer is usually applied beginning in the spring as sidedressing every two weeks until bulbs begin to form. Garlic is day length sensitive and begins to bulb around the summer solstice.

During the growing season, garlic needs 1 inch of water per week. Stop watering about two weeks before harvest. On hardneck garlic, remove any flowering stalk that forms to increase bulb size.

For using and harvesting, many gardeners enjoy eating the green shoots and leaves of garlic plants. However, cutting them continuously inhibits bulb formation. By early June, flower stalks may appear and should be cut back and discarded so the plant’s energy can be directed toward root and bulb formation.

Bulbs begin to mature or ripen in mid-July and early August. When the leaves become yellow and the leaf tips turn brown and bend toward the ground, the garlic is ready to harvest.

The presence of three to five wrapper leaves is the best indication of maturity. Lift the plants out of the soil and dry the bulbs in a partly shaded storage area for about two weeks. Rain during harvest causes serious problems because wet soil stains the bulbs and can increase the possibility of decay.

After drying, the tops may be removed or tied and then the garlic should be hung in a cool, well-ventilated spot. Dampness invites rotting. Properly dried garlic should last for six to seven months at 32 degrees and 70% relative humidity.

For more information, contact the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Service at 270-685-8480 or annette.heisdorffer@uky.edu. Other tips for growing garlic may be found in the publication, Home Vegetable Gardening in Kentucky, which is available at the Extension Office and online at www.ca.uky.edu/agc/pubs/id/id128/id128.pdf. Enjoy your garlic!

Annette’s Tips

When to prune flowering shrubs depends on the plant’s blooming period. If the shrub blooms before the end of May, prune after it blooms. Flowers for next year form on old wood. If it blooms after the end of May, prune when dormant because it flowers on new wood formed the same year.

Right now is not a good time to prune because we do not want plants to grow but to go dormant instead. If the plants begin to grow again this fall, the stem tips will not be hardened off and will turn brown when they freeze.

Do not fertilize trees and shrubs at this time of year. Plants are slowing down and going dormant. Fertilizer makes them grow. This new growth is susceptible to cold and freezing temperatures, resulting in damage to the plant.

Check the soil around your trees and shrubs, especially those planted this year, for moisture. They may need water since they have been used to rain throughout the summer. Avoid applying too much water and drowning the plant, especially if the soil does not drain well.

Annette Meyer Heisdorffer is the Daviess County extension agent for horticulture. Her column runs weekly on the Home & Garden page in Lifestyle. Email her at annette.heisdorffer@uky.edu.

 

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