Planting Depth for Garlic
Growing Your Own Garlic
Growing garlic in your garden or raised bed is a great way to make use of a small space or to keep your garden productive over the winter months when other vegetables are unlikely to be productive. Garlic should be planted about 2 inches under the surface, but you should know more before planting this healthy bulb.
Garlic can be planted in fall or in spring, but a fall planting has great advantages over a spring planting. In particular, planting in fall allows the bulbs to take root and get a strong start without the stress of heat that is more likely in early summer. Just as the cloves have rooted out and established themselves, winter rolls around and puts them to rest for the winter. The next season the bulbs will pick up right where they left off, but will grow much faster than spring-planted bulbs and be ready for harvest much sooner.
The key to achieving the best garlic in your garden is to plant the bulbs properly. This includes using high quality bulbs, choosing the right time of year, and planting garlic at the proper depth.
Preparing Soil for Garlic
Before you start planting, be sure to prepare the soil properly. Garden soil that is reasonably loose and rich in organic matter will make your garlic grow big and strong.
Start by turning the soil to remove any compaction that may have taken place over the summer. Then, either prepare rows 3 inches deep and 8 inches apart for row planting, or holes 3 inches deep and 9 per square foot if you are planting in a square foot garden. Now you are ready to plant.
Before You Plant
Before you plant it's important to be sure of a few things. First, pick the best bulbs that you can get your hands on. It's true that the best, healthiest garlic bulbs will make the best offspring, so choose bulbs that are in good shape and not dried out. Once the cloves are separated, pick the best and leave any weak cloves out of the garden. The biggest and healthiest cloves will produce the best garlic bulbs next season.
Second, plant at the right time. That is just before the first frost date for your hardiness zone. This will make it much less likely that extreme heat will stress out the young plants as they are taking root. Don't worry about frost - garlic is a cool season crop that will take root underground even when the air temperatures above ground are getting cold at night.
How Deep to Plant Garlic
Now that you have rows or holes about 3 inches deep you can plant your garlic. The best planting depth for garlic is one that will result in about 2 inches of protecting soil above each clove. This is the proper planting depth. Since most cloves are about an inch long, a 3 inch hole is perfect. If the cloves are bigger than that, plant a bit deeper to make sure you get the 2 inches of soil above them.
To plant, simply set the cloves in the ground and cover with soil. Make sure that the cloves are planted with the pointed end up and the roots (the flat end) pointed down for best results. That pointed end becomes the stem that will emerge in a few short weeks.
Just After Planting
Once the planting has been completed, go ahead and offer the cloves a nice drink of water and let them do their thing. You don't need to labor over water after this, they will be fine unless your area experiences an unusual hot and dry stretch of weather.
How to Protect Garlic in Winter
It's a good idea to give your new bulbs some protection in winter, particularly if you get some serious winter conditions. To do that, just add 3-6 inches of mulch atop the soil after planting. A straw mulch is the best choice since it is cheap, easy to find, and easy to remove in spring, but any mulch that is light and easy to remove will work.
This layer of mulch will protect the plants so they can grow just a bit longer in early winter and it will regulate the soil temperature and moisture level. Once spring has arrived and the shoots are starting to appear through the mulch, it can be removed.
Enjoy Your Fresh Garlic
With just a bit of soil preparation and by planting garlic at the proper depth and right time of year, you can enjoy your very own garden-raised garlic easily so it will be there for your next batch of guacamole or other favorite recipe. For a crop planted in late fall, expect mature bulbs around mid-summer the following year.
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