A Comprehensive Guide About Garlic Care, Management and Harvesting
- Garlic is an easy-growing plant in homes and kitchen gardens. However, better growth and production require good care and management.
- Garlic can grow well in a wide range of areas and soils, but its growth is reduced in highly humid and hot climatic regions.
- Garlic is a full sun-loving plant, but healthy and vigorous growing plants can easily tolerate partial shade.
- Sandy loam is an excellent soil for garlic growth, development, and production.
- Growers should properly dig the soil to make it crumbly for good growth.
- Weeding is essentially an important practice to reduce the competition for nutrient absorption and water use efficiencies.
- Garlic can grow well in a variety of soils, but a good quality yield can be obtained in good drainage and loamy soils.
- The addition of organic matter, compost, or potting mix greatly helps to improve the drainage capacity of the soil.
- Moreover, organic matter and compost also ensure a slow and steady supply of nutrients for good growth and production.
- Growers can buy good-quality cloves from certified sellers. Moreover, vigorous cloves can also be obtained from self-grown garlic or neighbors and friends.
- Growers should choose healthy bulbs with plump cloves and good shape.
- Clove size is significantly important as it affects the size of future bulbs.
- The stocks of new seeds should be planted in the isolated patches.
- There should be the proper breaking of bulbs to the cloves before planting. This process is known as cracking.
- The separation of cloves should be done few minutes before planting to ensure good growth, development, and production.
- Garlic can be planted in a single row or double row. However, a distance of about 4-8 inches must be maintained between the individual plants.
- Growers should mulch the garlic beds for moisture conservation, weed inhibition, and moderation of soil temperatures.
- Watering schedules should be carefully planned as per the requirements of growing plants and prevailing environmental conditions.
- Soil fertility should also be optimized by the addition of organic and inorganic fertilizers. However, the use of organic fertilizers is the best approach than the use of synthetic chemicals.
- Growers should regularly inspect the garlic beds and plants for diseases, fungal development, and insect pest attacks.
Botanical Features of Garlic Plant
Garlic (Allium sativum L). is an ancient plant and is known to be originated from Central Asian Steppes. It is a bulbous and flowering plant and is technically and scientifically placed in the Allium genus. The word garlic is derived from the old English word garlēac that means spear-shaped leek.
There are many close relatives of garlic including Chinese onion, Welsh onion, chive, leek, shallot, and onion. It can be grown all year round in moderate climates. While it can be propagated by both sexual and asexual means. Garlic has a good history to be used by Teutons, Galls, Chinese, Indians, Romans, and Greeks.
Garlic is a perennial, tall-growing, erect, and flower-producing plant. Its leaf blades are solid, wide, linear, and flat and have an acute apex. Its bulbs are odoriferous and have layers of thin sheathing leaves enclosing the cloves. Usually, one bulb has 10-20 cloves with asymmetric shape and size.
The fruiting body of garlic produces numerous sulfur-based compounds such as S-allyl cysteine, vinyldithiins, diallyl polysulfides, ajoene, and allicin. Moreover, it also contains Maillard reaction products, flavonoids, saponins, and enzymes. Moreover, it also contains a good range of trace elements and minerals such as selenium, germanium, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper, vitamin A, C, and amino acids. These compounds offer numerous health and metabolism improvement properties. Therefore, garlic is being used for cooking and medicinal purposes throughout the globe. Based on its importance for cooking and medicinal purpose this article is focused to educate people about how to plant garlic.
Care of Garlic Plants
- Mulching in Cold Season
Growers must ensure proper mulching in the colder areas for overwintering. Mulch is known as a friend of the gardener for various possible reasons. It offers significant soil protection from erosion and favors moisture-locking and weed suppression. Moreover, it also releases essential nutrients in the soil to support garlic growth and development.
However, there should be the removal of mulch in the spring season as the danger of frost is over. However, still, younger shoots should be properly covered with the optimal mulch layer as they cannot tolerate lower temperatures.
- Soil Management
Garlic grows well in the sandy loam and loamy soils as these soils ensure good drainage. Clayey soils are not good for garlic growth, as they hold more water and offer minimum drainage. More water retention may promote root rotting and disease attacks. Therefore, good drainage is a foremost requirement for garlic growth and production.
Soil testing is critically important to know the level of nutrients in the soil and fertilization optimization. Adding nutrients according to soil requirements and plant developmental stages can greatly improve the nutrient use efficiencies on a sustainable basis. Good understanding about soil fertility will help growers to optimize soil fertility and how to plant garlic.
- Cut Off the Spring Shoots
The warmer temperature in the spring season favors the emergence of shoots through the ground. The emerged flower shoots in the spring season must be removed because they usually result in reduced bulb size.
Garlic requires good fertilization and nutrient-rich growing media for better production. Therefore, growers must ensure good fertilization with compost, well-processed kitchen waste, chicken manure, blood meal, or synthetic fertilizers. Plants growing in nutrient-poor soils are more prone to biotic stresses and therefore yield is drastically reduced.
Moreover, plants should also be fertilized before bulbs start swelling in response to the daylight lengthening. The garlic plant is a heavy feeder and replenishes a good amount of nutrients from the soil. Therefore, amendments and organic fertilizers must be added to maintain soil fertility on a sustainable basis. Moreover, chemical fertilizers can also be applied by the foliar means to ensure immediate absorption and correction of nutritional deficiencies.
The presence of weeds is significantly harmful to the garlic as they compete for nutrient absorption, water, space, and aeration. Therefore, weeds must be reduced by manual, mechanical, or chemical weeding. Manual weeding is a good choice for kitchen gardens and mechanical weeding can be used for larger growing spaces.
The use of chemical weeding is also a good choice for immediate weed eradication, but it causes contamination of soil and the environment. Therefore, manual or mechanical weeding must be preferred over chemical weeding.
Watering intervals should be carefully planned according to the growing stages of garlic plants, surrounding conditions, and soil properties. Over irrigation may cause root rot, fungal attacks, and disease development. These problems may even infect the nearby growing plants and therefore watering scheduling should be done according to the needs of growing plants.
Watering should be done to a depth of 2-3 feet after every 8-10 days during hot and dry conditions. However, watering intervals should be reduced to 3-5 days at the bulb formation stages.
- Regular Inspection for Pests and Disease Attacks
Garlic has only a few insect pest problems in the garden because it has naturally pest repellent properties. It is a sensitive plant to the white-rot fungal attack in cooler climatic conditions. Crop rotation, and proper cleaning of the area after harvesting can greatly prevent and control the problem.
However, spores of the white-rot fungus can easily survive in the soil layers for various years. Usually, this fungus infects the roots and basal leaf parts of garlic. Therefore, this fungus and its spores should be carefully removed from the garden soil and plants to minimize the chances of fungal infection.
Mice, insects, and some other creatures can make their nests in the garlic plants or may even eat these plants. Moreover, aphid attack is also evident on leaves and flowering buds of garlic. The aphid attack can be easily reduced by simple rubbing of leaves with the fingers followed by the squashing.
The use of pesticides is also a good option to minimize the populations of insect pests but synthetic pesticides should only be used in case of severe infestation. Moderate attacks can be cured by using natural and organic pesticides that are greatly safe for environmental protection and maximizing the biodiversity, and ecosystem functioning.
When to Harvest
Determination of garlic harvesting is the trickiest task. Earlier harvesting renders underdeveloped and smaller cloves. Whereas late harvesting causes dry heads of the cloves that often leads to their separation due to reduced tightness and firmness. Although harvesting dates may be different for different areas and climatic regions, a general instruction is to check for yellowing of foliage.
Growers can start harvesting garlic when the leaf tops start getting yellow and falling over. Complete drying of the plant must be avoided to ensure freshness and quality yield. A sample plant must be harvested before digging the whole crop to reduce the problem of skin disintegration, and poor shelf life.
A Garden fork or spade can be used for digging to harvest the garlic. The concept of pulling should be greatly avoided as it may affect the overall structure and longevity of the produce. Soil should be carefully brushed after harvesting. Harvested garlic must be cured in dry, shady, and airy places for 1-2 weeks. Hanging them in the upside downward direction on the ropes is also helpful for good drying and storage.
Tips for Growing Garlic
- Plan garlic plantation in the fall season.
- Garlic should be planted at least 4-6 weeks before soil freezing in colder regions.
- Select a well-drained, weed-free, and properly enriched site in a sunny location.
- Properly loosen the soil up to a depth of 8-10 inches and add the appropriate amount of organic matter.
- Fish meal or bone meal can also be added other than organic matter and compost.
- Select disease-free, healthy, and large cloves to produce healthier, and bigger bulbs.
- Must break garlic heads to cloves before planting.
- Plant each clove to a depth of 3-4 inches and orient them in such a way that their pointing ends are facing an upward direction.
- Each clove must be placed 2-4 inches apart to provide good space for growing plants.
- 10-14 inches of distance must be maintained between the individual rows for plant growth and ease of cultivating experience.
- Gently water the soil and spread good quality mulch.
- Ensure, proper, weeding, fertilization, and watering to reduce the chances of biotic and abiotic stresses.
Compatible and Incompatible Plants for Garlic
Companion planting is a specific practice of planting compatible companion plants that helps to promote the growth and development of each other by producing certain chemicals. Companion planting for garlic requires low maintenance as it is a great deterrent to onion flies, snails, ants, aphids, Japanese beetles, cabbage loopers, spider mites, codling moths, and fungus gnats.
Compatible companion plants for garlic include kohlrabi, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, peppers, tomato, eggplants, cabbage, carrots, fruit trees, potatoes, spinach, kale, beets, and dill. While roses, geraniums, marigolds, and nasturtiums are good flowering companions for garlic. Numerous scientific studies have reported that companion planting of garlic with rue, chamomile, yarrow, and summer savory greatly improves its overall growth and development.
- Garlic repels common pests of cabbage such as diamondback moths, worms, cabbage moths, and cabbage loopers.
- Garlic plantation at the base of fruiting trees offers protection against apple scab, leaf curling, mites, Japanese beetles, and aphids.
- Garlic plantation along with the peppers helps to keep the fungi away from sun-loving plants.
- Planting garlic along with roses helps to deter the rose pests. Therefore, the needs to control snails, ants, mites, are blackspot fungi are reduced.
- Sowing lettuce and arugula provides protective layers around the growing garlic.
- Growing garlic along with tomato and pepper helps to keep spider mites away.
- Plantation of ground covers along with garlic helps to reduce evaporation from the soil. Moreover, it also returns nutrients to the soil and thereby improves soil fertility.
- Planting garlic along with fruits trees such as apple, nectarine, oranges, and lemon prevents the climbing of pests on the fruit trees.
Incompatible plants for Garlic
Not all plant species for compatible companions for each other and the same is the case with garlic. Planting garlic along with peas, parsley, asparagus, sage, and beans should be avoided.
- Growing garlic along with strawberries greatly inhibits their growth and development.
- The above-mentioned plants compete with garlic for nutrients, space, water, and aeration.
- Growing heavy feeders along with garlic extracts the nutrients for themselves and thus the growth of garlic will be negatively affected.
However, if growers are still interested to grow garlic with these plants at a smaller scale, they can plant garlic on the other side of growing beds or patches. In this way, the negative effects of these plants on each other will be greatly reduced. Furthermore, growing these incompatible plants at some distance will not minimize the negative effects completely but only to some extent.