planting Garlic and Onion

pjdsr(z7 VA)December 9, 2005

I plan to plant my alliums this weekend. Any advice? The garlic I have is really big, so I assume I need to slice them up. What about the onions? They are about the size of marbles. How far apart do I need to plant them? I have lots of compost to mulch them in for the winter.

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Whoa! PJ ... when you say "slice" up the garlic, you don't mean like with a knife, do you? You "crack" the bulb, which means separate the cloves, trying to keep the protective papery skin on each one if possible, and plant each clove individually.

If the garlic didn't come with planting instructions, and is really big (you don't say what variety it is), 5-6" should be ok, and about 2-3" deep. My husband did such a great job preparing the soil in the raised bed, all I had to do was lay the cloves out at the proper spacing and then gently push them down into the soil and cover them up. I had more prepared soil set aside which I added later, as a few good rains settled the soil in the bed considerably.

Re the compost, if it's well-aged stuff (so-called "black gold") I'd put it IN the garlic bed rather than on top. I understand garlic is an inefficient feeder so needs a rich, though well-drained, soil. We worked lots of well-rotted manure and aged compost into the soil, added one teaspoon of bone meal per planting hole (per instructions) and when the ground freezes will add a good layer of mulch ... in my case, shredded oak leaves; I'll lay branches cut from the Christmas tree on top of that to hold the mulch in place until spring.

I can't help you with the onions, haven't done them ... yet :-) but I'm sure someone will be along shortly with advice.

Good luck!


    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 7:27PM
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paquebot(Z-4b WI)

One thing for certain, Diane is going to have some great garlic after treating it that good. If I didn't know better, I'd say that she's been watching me over the years!

I'll assume that the onion sets are one of the generic types; red, white, or yellow. If grown just for the bulbs, 4" spacing works OK but 6" is better. Planting now in your area, you'd want them planted deep enough so that there's an inch of soil above the tip. With shallower roots than garlic, mulching onions with compost sounds like a great idea!


    Bookmark   December 9, 2005 at 10:02PM
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pjdsr(z7 VA)

Thanks so much for the good advice. I guess I should have provided more info.

I believe my garlic is the elephant variety. I got it online from Tasteful It did not come with directions, which is odd because they are usually very thorough. I sent them an email, but they must have closed up shop for the winter. The onion is the white variety I got from a local hardware store. I planted some this year and got great scallions out of it but no bulbs grew. I'm thinking I need to wait till spring to plant the onions, or can they overwinter like garlic can? I am in Zone 7.

My garden bed is a rich mix of top soil, compost and native clay, and most vegetables grow very well in it. Several weeks ago, I added several inches of chopped leaves to the top of the bed. I was thinking of mixing in a few more inches of compost and planting the garlic in the mix. Is that a good idea?

    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 12:56PM
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paquebot(Z-4b WI)

The leaf thing is not the best idea but not the worse either. I generally think of shredded leaves being strictly for mulch when used direct. The only time that I'd normally work them in just before planting would be if they'd gone through a composting cycle. Wood will tie up nitrogen until it breaks down. I keep thinking that plain leaves should do as well despite being around 1% nitrogen. But then I turn right around and do it myself! The leaves would not be robbing enough nitrogen for long enough to cause any problems. So, I'd say that it's a good idea but work it all deep, down to at least 8".

Your elephant garlic should be in the ground as soon as possible. Even then, you may not get anything but rounds when you harvest next summer. For them, I'd suggest a depth so that there is at least 2" of dirt above the tip. Spacing at 8" minimum, 10" would be better, and 12" if they are really large cloves.

As for the onions, I know the ones that you are writing about. If they are in good condition yet, I'd hold them until whenever would be normal "early spring" in your parts. I've never had much luck overwintering those types up here without a lot of protection. Even then, it was strictly for scallions as they'd quickly bolt to seed at the first hint of warm weather.


    Bookmark   December 12, 2005 at 6:28PM
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pjdsr(z7 VA)

What are rounds? Is that bad? I planted garlic in early spring last year with minimal success.

    Bookmark   December 19, 2005 at 3:21PM
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paquebot(Z-4b WI)

Rounds are garlic bulbs which have failed to divide into cloves. Normally they are smaller overall but still taste just as good as an individual clove.


    Bookmark   December 19, 2005 at 5:23PM
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pjdsr(z7 VA)

Thanks Diane and Martin. I had hoped to get the cloves in the ground well before now but chasing striped bass, too much work and rotten weather have derailed my plans. The snow is melted, and I will get the garlic in the ground in the next couple days.

I read somewhere plant garlic on the winter solstice and harvest on the summer solstice. Don't know if that's fact or myth, but it looks like I am going to find out.

    Bookmark   December 22, 2005 at 3:15PM
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5 years ago I got some kind of onion seeds from my friend that was a mix between garlic and onion. When you pulled them from the ground they were very strong of the smell of gerlic, but when you ate them, you could taste both. I've tried many catalogs but cant seem to find them again. Can any one help? Thank you

    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 8:57PM
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Biinaboo, Zone 10, Naples, Gulf Coast

I'm not expert...actually i've never grown garlic or onion (i'm lurking and learning right now) BUT I do love to cook. It sounds to me like you are describing shallots. They grow in clove forms but have "rings" like an onion. Am I right or is there something else out there similar?


    Bookmark   January 11, 2006 at 10:02AM
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jwmeyer(Z8 OR)

What about regular ole' store bought garlic that I use for cooking. I noticed today when preparing spaghetti sauce that I had an individual clove w/ a green sprout about 3/4" long.
Can I plant these? What's the best way to plant garlic. I do an indoor vege garden under a 400w cmh w/ great success. The times when I am lucky enough to purchase really fresh garlic, I'm amazed how good it is....So why not grow my own! Any advise/direction is appreciated....

Thanks all~

    Bookmark   January 11, 2006 at 6:06PM
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paquebot(Z-4b WI)

Jwm, in your area, you should be able to plant those sprouted garlic cloves outside now and still expect a decent harvest. More than likely they are an early softneck anyway. Plant each clove with the pointed tip, about an inch of dirt above the tip. Space 6 to 8 inches apart.


    Bookmark   January 11, 2006 at 6:40PM
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