While you can plant garlic in spring as soon as the ground can be worked, fall is actually the best time to plant plump garlic cloves in your garden. Doing so allows them to put out a generous tuft of roots over the winter, and ensures maximum garlic harvests next summer. But you can't just plop them in the ground—follow these steps for a healthy garlic crop:
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Break a garlic bulb apart into individual cloves, being careful to keep the papery skins covering each clove intact. Then fill a quart jar with water and mix in 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of liquid seaweed (available on Amazon.com or at your local garden store). Soak the garlic cloves in this mixture for 2 hours prior to planting to prevent fungal disease and encourage vigorous growth.
In the meantime, prepare your bed for planting. Garlic grows best in rich, well-drained soil that is free of weeds. Dig a furrow about 3 inches deep. Place the presoaked garlic cloves into the furrow, spacing them 6 to 8 inches apart. Be sure the flat root end is down and the pointy end is up.
Cover the garlic cloves with 2 inches of soil and side-dress the furrow with compost or scratch in granulated organic fertilizer. Water the bed in well and cover it with 6 to 8 inches of straw mulch. You should see shoots poking through the mulch in 4 to 6 weeks. The garlic stops growing in the winter months and resumes in spring.
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