Writer: D'Lyn Ford
LAS CRUCES--Fall finds most gardeners reaping the benefits of their summer's labor as they harvest their crops. It's also the time, however, to think about next year's harvest, especially for those planning to grow garlic.
"Garlic is like a tulip," said George Dickerson, horticulturist with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service.
"The bulbs are planted in the fall, and they produce plants in the spring."
The garlic bulb is segmented into cloves, each of which will produce an individual plant next spring. "The bigger the clove, the bigger the plant," Dickerson said. "Larger plants then produce larger bulbs."
Garlic grows best in rich, deep, well-drained sandy loam soil. Incorporating compost and super-phosphate fertilizer into the soil before planting will ensure good bulb development. Space rows 3 feet apart.
In the fall, plant cloves 3 inches deep and 3 to 6 inches apart in rows. "Be sure to plant cloves with the pointed tips facing up," he said.
To encourage goo leaf development, Dickerson recommends applying nitrogen fertilizer along the sides of the rows when plants emerge in the spring.
"When the lower leaves of the garlic plant start to turn brown in early June, stop irrigating and allow the bulb to mature," he said. In late June or early July, dig the bulbs with a garden fork. Allow bulbs to cure in the shade or braid plants together into a ristra and hang to cure.
There are two types of garlic brown in New Mexico--hardneck and softneck. "Hardneck varieties send up a seed stalk with a 'spathe' or paper like capsule ate the top," Dickerson said. "This spathe contains bulblets about the size of marbles."
Bulblets can be planted in the early spring. These will develop into small plants that will produce unsegmented bulbs, called rounds, in the fall. Left undisturbed, a round will produce a segmented bulb the following summer.
Hardneck varieties include 'Spanish Roja' and 'Carpathian'. 'California Early' is a softneck variety well-adapted to New Mexico that produces excellent yields. Softneck varieties rarely send up seed stalks.
"The milder-flavored elephant garlic actually is related to the leek," Dickerson said.
A favorite of small farmers, garlic can sell for $5 per pound at local farmers' markets, he added.
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