Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Garlic-Good for More Than Just Vampire Control

Jesse Fulbright, MSU Liberty County Extension

I love garlic.  Whether it be on fries, on shrimp, or a variety of other ways, it is one of my favorite things to see added to different foods.  So, what if you want to grow it?
Lucky for me, and anyone else that would like to grow garlic in their garden, there is an M.S.U. Extension MontGuide on it.  Garlic is a good thing to grow in Montana as it tolerates our cold winters and short growing seasons well.  If planted at the right time, it should supply all the garlic an average family needs.  Note the “average” part of that statement.  Garlic has been found to be an excellent source of selenium.  Selenium is an antioxidant that fights oxidative stress, meaning it helps protect our cells from damage.  This is not a cure-all of course but one of the side benefits potentially of garlic.  Garlic is also a good source of protein, phosphorus, iron and potassium. 

Traditionally, garlic is planted in the early spring and harvested at the end of summer.  I suppose you could try that here, under the right conditions in the right year.  However, many gardeners in growing areas such as ours have better luck planting garlic between mid-September and mid-October.  This way, the garlic plants have a chance to develop a strong root system, overwinter and are then harvested the next summer.  If you decide on fall planting, be sure to mulch your plants with about six inches of straw or some other good protectant to protect them from winter heaving and desiccation.  You can leave out the mulch if we get a decent snow cover for most of the winter.  The plants will grow beneath the snow and may be two inches tall as the snow melts. 
Photo courtesy of University of Maine Cooperative Extension.
A word on the actual planting now.  Each bulb is made up of several cloves held together by a thin membrane.  You are probably familiar with this if you have cooked with garlic.  Each clove consists of two miniature leaves and a vegetative bud.  Separate the cloves just before planting and plant only the larger outer ones.  Use the smaller inner cloves for cooking, since the size of the resulting bulb is directly related to the size of the clove planted.  The moral of the story is, plant small cloves and you’ll get small bulbs.  Turn under about five pounds of 5-10-10 fertilizer or equivalent per 100 square feet before planting.  Then, work some compost or other rotted organic material into the soil.  Set the cloves into the soil right-side up about two inches deep and four to six inches apart in rows about 12 inches apart.  Five feet of row will satisfy the average person for one year.  You’ll need about one pound of cloves to plant 20 feet of row.  Garlic does best when planted in a sunny location but will tolerate partial shade.  Please let your local county Extension office know if you have any further questions about garlic this fall!

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