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How To Plant Garlic

How To Plant Garlic

It’s time to plant garlic in Cape Cod vegetable gardens, and fortunately, this is a super-easy plant to grow. Here are some tips for home gardeners in this region.

  • Buy heads of seed garlic if you haven’t saved some of your own heads from last year. On Cape Cod we can grow either hardneck or softneck varieties. Both are hardy through the winter in this area.
  • After you get your seed garlic heads, break them into individual cloves for planting. Try to keep the “paper” skins on those cloves, but don’t worry if a few tear free.
Use gloved hands to push apart the cloves on the head of garlic. Put them in a bowl so they are ready to plant. You can throw out the hard stem that is often in the center and is attached to the old roots.
  • Make rows in your garden that are about three inches deep. Place garlic cloves in these rows with the pointy end of the clove sticking up. Put the cloves about six inches apart so that the cloves have space to fill out into new heads without being crowded.
Plant garlic cloves about six inches apart in a trench that is 3 inches deep. In this garden the rows of garlic are about 20 inches apart because this gardener sows lettuce and chard seeds in between the rows of garlic in the spring. In smaller gardens, or in raised beds, make the rows 8 to 12″ apart to make full use of your space.
  • Cover the cloves with soil, and water the area well to settle the bulbs. Although you won’t see much action for 4 to 6 weeks, or sometimes not until the spring, the roots will be starting to form in the ground. Water your garden deeply once a week if it doesn’t rain.
  • On Cape Cod garlic usually puts up a tiny green shoot in November or early December. This is fine, but the goal is to not have tremendous growth in the fall that is likely to die out over the winter. This is why we don’t plant garlic until October…if we planted it in August or even early September, the ground temperature is still so warm that the garlic would be stimulated to grow as if it was spring. We wait until the soil temperatures are close to 50 degrees, which is usually about the time the night temperatures fall down to 50 or below.
  • Once the small green shoots poke out of the soil, know that they are doing a job for your future crop of garlic heads. Those green shoots are photosynthesizing and creating energy that will fuel the plants early in the spring. Do not worry that these shoots will be exposed to the winter weather. If you want to mulch on either side of the plants, by all means do so, although it’s optional here on Cape Cod.
  • Wait until next spring in April to fertilize with an organic fertilizer.
Here is how the garlic will look in April of next year. The shoots may seem rather small and weak all winter, but come early April you’ll be amazed at how quickly the plants start to grow. In this region, garlic gets harvested in late-June or early-July. Later in July or August you can plant additional fall-hardy vegetables in that area.
  • Garlic is easy to grow in our well-drained soils. Water once a week if it hasn’t rained – do not water daily!
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