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Your last crop of the season may be your easiest

Now that the weather has changed, instead of focusing on how to put the garden to bed… you should also start thinking about the very last crop to dig in and be done! October is the ideal time to plant your garlic crop for next year. These spicy bulbs do best with almost a full year of growth. Start with a well drained, loose and richly composted soil, since our wet springs can ruin your cloves if they don’t have proper drainage. It is best to prepare the soil now with a handful of alfalfa meal or bone meal to feed the cloves for the long haul. These are fertilizers that break down slowly as your bulbs grow, so they can be sprinkled right over your cloves. About one pound of garlic can multiply into a harvest of 3 to 5 pounds under proper conditions. 

Pick your favorite variety; there are two main varieties of garlic, softneck or hardneck. Softneck garlic looks a lot like the white Italian garlic sold at most grocery stores. In taste tests, the Inchelium Garlic has come out with the highest marks with its mild flavor for both cooking and eating raw. Inchelium’s large bulbs are well “wrapped,” which gives them the longest storage possible and the bulbs are sometimes braided because its stems are soft and pliable. This heirloom variety was discovered on the Colville Indian reservation in Inchelium, Washington and is the oldest strain of garlic grown in North America.

Hardneck garlics have a more robust flavor ranging from the medium taste of the Rocambole to the more hot and spicy Porcelain and Purple stripe varieties. Most of the “reds,” such as German Red, or Spanish Roja, fall in the Rocambole family, prized by chefs for their medium cloves that are easy to peel. The Porcelain varieties such as Georgian Fire and Music live up to their name with beautiful, ultra white skins, long storage and huge cloves that hold their flavor roasted or in cooking. Purple Stripe varieties such as Persian Star and Metechi are striped with big flavor and color.

Choose the largest cloves from the bulbs you buy to plant. Smaller cloves can be eaten now! If you are cramped for space, plant short rows of plants with cloves spaced a minimum of 4-6 inches apart. This way you can concentrate your mulch, watering and weeding according to garlic’s special needs. Break the clove apart from the other cloves in the round bulb and plant with the narrow tip up about 3 to 4 inches deep. Be sure to keep your garlic bulb in one piece and only “crack” the cloves apart on the day you dig them in or they can dry out and not root properly. 

Garlic is really an easy crop because over watering can do more damage to the wrappers that help to store the cloves than under watering. Cover your clove with soil and mulch with a 2 to 4 inch layer of hay, straw or leaves to protect the roots in the winter, keep the weeds out in the spring and provide consistent moisture to the plants throughout the summer. Now your garden’s ready for it’s winter rest!

Nancy Hastings grew up on a 300+-acre farm and now is co-owner of All Seasons Garden and Floral in Sandpoint. She and her husband John have been cultivating community gardens and growing for 16 years in North Idaho. You can reach them with garden questions or sign up for classes at allseasonsgardenandfloral (at)gmail.com.

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Nancy Hastings Nancy Hastings grew up on a 300+ acre farm and is co-owner of All Seasons Garden and Floral in Sandpoint, She and her husband John have been cultivating community gardens and growing for 15 years in North Idaho. You can reach them with garden questions or sign up for classes atllseasonsgardenandfloral(at)gmail.com.

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gardening, garlic, Get Growing!

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