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— With Halloween gone and the danger of vampires presumably past, fall is prime time for planting garlic.

“Garlic is a bulb and is made up of a collection of cloves,” said Craig Andersen, extension horticulture specialistvegetables. “This vegetable originated in Central Asia and has been cultivated for thousands of years.”

Garlic has no seeds.

“It’s a vegetatively propagated crop,” he said. “Just go to the grocery store and get some garlic, choosing the largest bulbs free of any storage diseases.

“Then break up the bulb into its individual cloves,” he said.

Fall-planted garlic cloves will produce a new bulb by the next summer.

“You can plant garlic from now until mid-December,” he said. “Garlic planted after New Year’s Day will often form a round a large clove but not the daughter cloves that make up a newbulb.”

The cloves should be planted about 1.5 inches deep in well-drained, fertile soil. Plant the cloves 4 to 6 inches apart with 12 inches between rows.

“Don’t worry about which direction the cloves are laying in the row,” Andersen said. “Shoots grow up and roots grow down, they straighten themselves out.

The leaves will emerge in several weeks and grow throughout the winter.

“If it gets too cold, less than 10 degrees Fahrenheit, you may wish to throw leaves or straw over the plants to protect them until it gets warmer,” he said.

Fertilize the plants at the beginning of March and again about mid-May.

The garlic should be ready to harvest in late June or July.

“You don’t have to wait until July to use the garlic,” Andersen said. “The immature plants, the green garlic, can be used anytime.

“Use them as you would scallions in stir fry, or in pestos,” he said.

The freshly harvested garlic in the summer will have a milder and sweeter taste than bulbs that have been stored.

Homegrown garlic is still possible, even without a garden plot.

“Plant the cloves in pots or containers that are 4 to 6 inches deep,” Andersen said. “Use well-drained, loose potting soil and fertilize them once a month.”

Andersen offered one more tip: “When you are cooking with garlic and do not want to mess with the small cloves, plant them anytime of year and use the leaves as they grow, taking the oldest leaves first.”

For more information on growing garlic, contact your county extension agent.

News, Pages 9 on 11/11/2009

Print Headline: Garlic: Plant, eat and enjoy

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