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Healthy porcelain garlic.
Healthy porcelain garlic.

Fall gardening: not quite time for garlic

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Acccording to Cornell Cooperative Extension horticulturist Amy Ivy, the old rule said the first two weeks of October were perfect for planting garlic. But not any more.

The best time to plant garlic in the North Country is now the last two weeks in October, according to Ivy.

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Reported by

Martha Foley
News and Public Affairs Director

Planting garlic in the fall, instead of the spring, is the ideal time, because you want the roots to grow, stated Ivy. “You need it to grow those roots in the fall and get established. So you do want some growth, just not that top growth.”

Due to the varying weather in the fall months over the last few years, the timing to plant garlic has changed. “We used to say the first half of October was the ideal time but, now I’m saying the last half of October,” said Ivy, “I would say now I would wait until the at least the fifteenth of October, and just kind of watch the weather.”

It all depends on the weather. According to Ivy, if there is going to be a warmer week in October then wait until after to plant. She added, “If it seems like we're going to have another mild October like last year, then you could even wait until the very end of October to plant it. I guess when in doubt wait a little bit longer”

Io plant garlic, break the head apart into individual cloves, the ones that are used for cooking. Then each one of those cloves will form a whole head, and will be ready to harvest in July, explained Ivy.

“When you break it apart pay attention to the orientation, where they were attached at the bottom is the base of the clove, and you want that part down,” said Ivy, “and then the pointy part, orient that vertically so the pointy part is pointing up and the base is at the bottom.” The top of the clove should be two inches below the top of the soil. 

Garlic used to be a trouble- and pest-free crop, but now some problems are developing that Ivy said growers should look out for, “Look at your garlic, and if it looks funky or if it doesn’t look good, just don’t plant those cloves. And so what you want to look for is [it] should be firm. Anybody who’s cooked knows what garlic should feel like, it should feel firm, almost like a potato, that kind of firm. If it feels spongy or if it feels like it’s shriveled up, and not so much soft, but just like nothing is there, don’t bother planting that.”

“Some of my garlic that I saved out of my own garden has some brown at the bottom half of the clove. It was pretty noticeable. That’s a soil born disease, fusarium, and I’m just not going to plant those cloves.”

Ivy said, “By saving your own garlic and replanting it you eventually you can select the garlic that will be best suited to your soil.”

She said you could send away for garlic, like mail order seeds, but they will likely be sold out. The best alternative would be go to local farmers market, roadside stand, or local grower and buy from them, because you are getting a line or a strain successful in the area, according to Ivy.

If you want to experiment, you could try buying from a supermarket, however the garlic usually comes from California and is not the best suited for this area, but may still make it, explained Ivy.

She advises, “Only plant the biggest and best cloves in the head, don’t plant the little tiny ones in the middle.”

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