For garlic growers like myself that do all of their garlic planting in the fall, spring is a pretty care free period.
Particularly if your garlic is grown in fertile soil and the bed is mulched with a thick layer of shredded leaves or straw during the fall months.
Spring Maintenance for Garlic Beds
Fall planted garlic is usually the first vegetable plant to make an appearance in my garden each spring. There are often signs of new leaf growth as early as mid to late February here in Zone 6, well ahead of even the early spring flowering bulbs.
The first spring garlic chore is to check the beds to make sure that the garlic leaves are able to penetrate the mulch that was used to protect it over the winter. This isn’t an issue if you used shredded leaves or straw as a mulch, but whole leaves can become matted and prevent the garlic plants from reaching the surface.
If your garlic plants are growing in spirals trapped beneath the mulch you can rescue them by pulling the mulch away from the base of each plant. It’s better to eliminate this potential problem altogether, simply by shredded the leaves before use.
Benefits of Mulching Garlic
Don’t completely remove the mulch from your garlic bed as it will perform many functions in addition to insulating the plants and guarding against heaving during the winter months.
A thick mulch in the garlic bed will also reduce or eliminate weed growth throughout the garlic growing season. In addition the mulch will help to conserve moisture and keep the soil a little cooler which is fine in the case of garlic plants.
The only negative that I can think of to leaving the mulch in place is that it can sometimes attract and provide cover to animals such as rabbits and chipmunks. One year I discovered a nest of baby bunnies nicely camouflaged right in the center of my garlic bed.
Enjoying Spring Garlic
That’s it for taking care of the fall planted garlic bed during springtime. It’s about as close to maintenance free as you can get. Depending on the condition of your soil you may want to begin feeding your plants with a nitrogen rich fertilizer in early spring also.
You can side dress or scatter fertilizer onto the soil, but with the mulch in place it’s a lot easier to mix a liquid fertilizer such as seaweed or fish emulsion with water and spray the mixture onto the leaves of the garlic plants.
Raising homegrown garlic will also give you the opportunity to enjoy fresh garlic greens, spring garlic, and baby garlic long before the mature bulbs are ready for harvest. With this in mind I usually plant a section of the garlic bed a little closer together and use the plants that are thinned as garlic flavored spring onions in the kitchen.
On-going Garlic Maintenance
I’ll post another article later this month with ideas for summer garlic care, but I can tell you now that there isn’t any more involved than the simple steps to care for your garlic plants during the spring.
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