East Texas Ag News: Growing garlic in the home garden
ANGELINA COUNTY, Texas (KTRE) - Garlic is one of my wife’s and my favorite additions when cooking. We’ll mince the garlic or press it and sauté it before adding meats or vegetables. Aside from getting the garlic smell on our hands, we love it.
Historically, garlic was discussed in ancient documents in Rome and Egypt. In the bible, Numbers chapter 11, the Israelites lamented the lack of garlic, among other foods, they had while enslaved in Egypt. The first mention of garlic in America is by Peter Martyr, who states that Cortez ate it in Mexico. It was cultivated by the Choctaw Indians prior to 1775 and is mentioned as a staple garden vegetable by American gardening authors in 1806.
Garlic doesn’t appear as popular an item in the East Texas gardens that I have seen, but it certainly can be grown here. A retired banker that I knew years ago before he passed away talked about how he wanted to grow all varieties of garlic in his garden.
Fall is the time to plant garlic from cloves with an anticipated harvest the following spring. A long, cool season crop. Plant each clove separately, pointed side up, about 1 inch deep and 3-4 inches apart.
Garlic requires good soil and hates competition from weeds. Plant in well-drained soil that has lots of organic matter. It may not be a good idea to grow garlic in typical garden soil. Consider raised beds if your soil drains poorly.
Be sure to keep weeds away as it is not as competitive as other plants. Weeds greatly diminish garlic growth. Mulching is highly desirable in a garlic bed. The use of mulch will hamper weeds, add to the organic matter in your garden, and greatly assist garlic production.
Water 1-2 inches per week. Fertility needs are relatively small. Garlic only needs some nitrogen fertilizer once in the spring when the leaves are about 6-8 inches tall.
If your garlic starts to bud out and bloom, be sure to cut off the buds and any blooms you miss. These flowering structures aren’t necessarily the worst thing to happen but rob the bulbs of nutrients.
You’ll want to harvest when you have 3-5 large firm cloves. Garlic can be dried and stored for a long time if you dry it thoroughly in a well-ventilated area to prevent rot. Keep at around 75 degrees F and away from any location with temperature swings.
Some varieties to try are California Early, California Softneck, French Mild Silverskin, Mexican Purple, New York White, and the better-known Elephant garlic. If you do decide to plant Elephant garlic, be sure to space the cloves further apart in the garden to allow for adequate growth.
Cary Sims is the County Extension Agent for agriculture and natural resources for Angelina County. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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