A question I often get is whether garlic can be grown in our area, and the answer is yes.
Garlic grows better in sandy soils. In clay soil, organic matter has to be added to loosen the soil so the bulbs will not be misshapen.
Garlic (Allium sativum ) is a member of the onion family. It is probably native to central Asia, but has long been grown throughout the world.
Garlic produces a number of small bulbs called cloves. Each bulb contains a dozen or more cloves covered with a thin white skin.
There are types of garlic that do well here, such as silverskins, artichoke types and elephant garlic.
Silverskins are the type most often found on supermarket shelves because of their long storage life. They are the highest-yielding variety and do well in a range of climates.
Plant growth silverskins are more upright than other types. Leaves are generally narrow and pale green. Silverskins rarely produce flower stalks in mild climates, but might when stressed by cold winters or drought conditions. Some of the better varieties are mild French and silverskin.
Artichoke strains are very vigorous and large-bulbed. Plants are short and spreading rather than upright. The leaves are broader than any other variety and a deeper green than most.
Artichokes are named for their configurations of several overlapping layers of cloves, reminiscent of the true artichoke. Many artichoke strains have three to five clove layers containing 12 to 20 total cloves. Some of the better varieties for Georgia are inchelium red, California early, and Chet's Italian.
Elephant garlic is not a true garlic, but a type of leek that produces very large cloves, often only three or four per bulb. Several small bulblets might also develop. It produces a large seedstalk that may be cut and used for ornamental purposes. The tender, fleshy lower portion of the seedstalk is also prized as a stir-fried vegetable. The flavor is milder than garlic and can be slightly bitter. Elephant garlic grows under the same conditions as regular garlic.
Garlic is easy to grow in the garden. Late September through November is the time to plant garlic in Georgia. The plant is extremely frost-hardy and, if planted in October, might have tops showing above the soil and be well rooted by November.
The crop matures in the early summer. The growing period is too short for satisfactory yields if planted in the spring, because bulbing and maturity will not take place when temperatures are high.
Garlic is planted in the fall in Georgia to permit full leaf development. As soon as bulbing starts, leaf initiation ceases. For highest yields, the cloves must be planted early enough to permit the development of large vegetative plants during the short cool days of late winter.
The yield potential of the plants depends on the amount of vegetative growth before bulbing commences. Bulb growth and development in the garlic plant is favored by long days and warm temperatures.
Garlic is easy to plant. The best way is dig a hole or trench, place the unpeeled clove gently into the hole with the pointed side up and cover the clove with soil. Setting the cloves in an upright position ensures a straight neck on the plant. Approximately 2 to 3 pounds of garlic bulbs will plant 100 feet of row. The amount will vary depending on variety, row width and plant spacing. The cloves should be planted 1 to 3 inches deep and 6 inches apart. Rows are usually planted 12 to 14 inches apart.
Then the plants should be mulched to help protect bulbs from severe cold and to conserve moisture. The mulch should be 2 to 3 inches thick and 2 to 3 inches away from the stem of the plant. If the mulch touches the plant, diseases and insects can be a problem.
The garlic should be irrigated immediately after planting, and it needs an inch of water per week for best growth. Fertilization should be done at planting and again in the spring and should be based on a soil sample.
Depending on the area of Georgia, garlic will be ready to harvest from late May to mid-July. When garlic is mature, leaf tops will start to dry, discolor and bend toward the ground. Harvest the garlic when a third to a half of the leaves have died back in this manner.
Allow harvested bulbs to dry in the sun for several days. It is a good idea to cover the bulbs with the tops to prevent direct sunlight from striking them.
Charles Phillips is a retired Columbia County Extension Service agent and operates Hort Consulting. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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