Well, it is mid-July but the planting season is only three months away. We plant our hardnecks (purple Russians, Porcelains and Rocamboles) in the latter half of October. That is usually when the soil temperature cools to 50 degrees fahrenheit. Now we suggest you spend time prepping the ground. Here are a few tips:
1) Use well drained soil in full sun that did NOT have root crops (potatoes, onions and garlic in particular) planted in it this season. Also, avoid growing garlic in freshly turned sod or grass. All these situations breed click beetles and they produce the dreaded wire worm that can easily wipe out your crop next spring. Ground that grew alliums (onions, garlic, shallots, leeks etc) also increase the root rot pathogens. Rotate your garlic beds one year in four to keep soil pathogens to a minimum. (We use the African Guinea Fowl as predators since they wipe out click beetles and help keep wire worm to a minimum.)
2) Shade (even partial shade) will produce smaller bulbs and you will see more red rust in the leaves, particularly if it rains in the spring or if you over water. Garlic does best in full sun.
3) The biggest hurdle to big garlic in our Zone 8 climate is the heavy rains Oct-April. It is absolutely critical that you ensure your garlic patch is well drained and NEVER has standing water. Garlic roots are primitive and need beneficial fungus found in our loamy soil to receive adequate nutrition. Rotted manure, compost and even rotting leaves are all great ways to improve the tilth (texture) of your soil and encourages beneficial fungi and molds to proliferate. The easiest way to keep their feet dry is to plant garlic in raised beds. The photo above shows some of 2014 beds. This year we will have a disc-hiller on John’s tractor which will produce the perfect beds for his soil (more on that this fall).
So, while planting is 100 days away now is a good time to select your garlic site and prep your soil. One last summer tip: I’ve had great success spreading sea-weed over my raised beds in the summer. By October it breaks down into carbon, trace minerals and other critical nutrients. Don’t worry about a little sea-salt in your garden. It is also an awesome weed-suppressant.