You planted you garlic last fall and now what?
Most garlic planted in the fall should be at least sprouted and has developed a root system. Ours will vary from variety to variety. Some have leaves as tall as 8 inches, while others are just emerging from the soil level. Winter temperatures will also affect the growth of garlic.
During the winter months garlic is slow growing and will still require water and some fertilization. Garlic can survive with virtually no water, but to produce a nice size bulb, water is essential. We let the surface (top 1″) of our soil dry out before watering. Our soil is a nice loam and holds water fairly well. Watering will depend on rainfall and soil types. Garlic is fairly short rooted, but watering only with surface will only starve garlic from water. Watering to the depth of 2 foot will be ample. Soil should stay moist, but not saturated or possible rot can occur. Drought stress delays bulb formation as well as produce smaller bulbs. As longer days come around and they begin to warm up, watering chores should increase. Keep it simple! Water garlic like other vegetable crops. When harvest time approaches, soil can be allowed to dry out for harvest, but then and only then.
When garlic was planted, hopefully you amended your soil well with compost and fertilizer. Timing is everything when fertilizing. Late fertilizing can delay bulb formation and decrease yields, and producing a garlic bulb that does not keep well. We fertilize with blood meal organic fertilizer (nitrogen fertilizer) in mid-February when the garlic leaves start to actively grow. In some regions, the growth may not come until March, April or May, so fertilizing later will be necessary. Watch your garlic! We sprinkle the blood meal along side the garlic and cover with a thin layer of compost. Every six weeks thereafter we spray the leaves with liquid kelp until a month before harvest.
Mulching garlic moderates temperature, moisture and suppresses weeds. Layer 2-6″ of organic matter such as straw, leaves or lawn clippings. The colder the climate, the thicker the mulch should be. I use 2″ of rough compost or a soil conditioner once the garlic begins to emerge from the soil. Wood chips are not a preferred choice of mine because they rob your soil of nitrogen, which is what your garlic needs. Mulching can be done at planting time and/or throughout the growing season. Strong winds in our area blow away mulch, so mulching a few times a year work best for us, watering afterword’s can help hold mulch placement, especially if we have a freeze. If using straw or other lofty mulch, it may need to be removed once temperatures are not longer freezing to help the soil warm and keep hiding places for pests down.
Weeds! Grow weeds or grow garlic. Garlic likes its own space and weeds should not be allowed to grow. Pull weeds early when young and avoid
hoeing as you can damage bulbs. There is nothing more to say about that!
Straight forward winter garlic care ~ Water when needed, but don’t overwater, fertilize once growth begins in late winter or early spring with blood meal, fertilize with liquid kelp every six weeks thereafter, mulch and keep weeds out! Come summer, you’ll have the best harvest ever!