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Old 09-10-10, 08:35
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Tess101 Tess101 is offline
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Default Garlic fans: How To Plant

By request: A Guide to Planting Garlic
The most important thing in planting garlic is choosing the right variety. If at all possible, buy it first hand so you can actually feel the bulbs. If you live in northern climates, look for hard bulbs with impervious skins. I like the Russian Red and German Red for upstate New York. Be aware that many varieties have local names.
There are garlic festivals all over the country this time of year, through about October. You can plant as late as December so long as the ground is not frozen.
Second most important thing is to diversify your planting locations. I plant some on lowland with good groundwater, some on hillside on a drier, rockier area, and some way up on a pasture. It is impossible to predict the year's upcoming weather so you must plan for every contingency. One year, I had fantastic garlic in my flood plane, and we had floods that year. Another year, a lesser flood wiped it out. These variables have everything to do with patterns you cannot see, mostly groundwater movement, which is constantly rerouted in more lively areas. So plant in at least two different locales. Moreover, plant at least two varieties.
The best way to choose a variety is to get them from local farmers. Someone who has already done all of this and knows what varieties thrive in the local soil and climate is the best resource you have. Make friends with said farmer and listen well.
Do not plant your garlic too deep, but plant deep enough to protect from frost. Nestle the pods, green sprout-end up, with enough soil to cover but not enough to suffocate. Think of it as a blanket, not a tupperware. I suppose I plant about 3" in. Do not plant too close together. I'd say about a hand's width apart.
Plant before the ground freezes. Your garlic will be ready late next summer. Just before it ripens, it will shoot up delightful garlic scapes. Pick these and make them into a pesto just as they are. You may add parmesian if you wish. Put it up in the freezer. When the stems of your garlic begin to wilt it is time to harvest.
I like to braid in groups of 3 or 6 and hang them in the basement or garage: a cool, dry place. Call your farmer friend and ask if you may have the leftover baling twine from his spent hay bales. he will be glad to get rid of them. Use these to braid and hang your garlic. They will keep all winter.

One last note: there is much debate about the soil one should plant garlic in. The most universal answer is: plant in the soil you have, but plant the right variety, one that works best with your soil. I have poor soil here so I like to plant in a mix of mulch and sheep and goat manure. I have done this on tilled ground and raised beds with equal success. I get excellent results. Manure is a topic unto itself. Generally, you can use sheep and goat manure "uncooked" (without aging) so long as it is dry, whereas cow and horse manure should really age before using. This not only softens the "heat" but cooks off the bacteria as well. Never ever use poultry manure unless you compost it aggressively. It runs hot and has loads of bacteria. I personally never use poultry manure in the garden at all, especially with root crops.
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