Caring for Garlic in Spring: 3 Things to Remember 10 Comments
Taking care of your garlic early in spring is important...and fun!
So it's springtime and your garlic has either survived the winter or was recently planted in spring - Now what? Most of us are excited to get out into our gardens or fields but are sometimes unsure as to what to start with. On our farm, there are three important things that we do every spring when caring for our garlic. They have worked well for years and I have found that they get the garlic off to a great start.
(1) Plant Scouting
Spring is the first good opportunity of the growing season to assess the health of your garlic and to see if there are any problems. Checking your garlic (or any other garden or field vegetables) regularly is very important and helps you to grow strong healthy plants while avoiding potential problems that can come up.
On my farm, I check the garlic almost every day in spring and every other day during the peak growing season. I have found over the years that plants can look perfect one day and then an issue arises seemingly overnight. This can be insects showing up, a disease problem or even something like poor growth from low nutrient levels.
Noticing a problem right away can give you valuable time to find a solution. Most problems start small and are easily dealt with when they are found early. Also, pulling out weak or diseased plants starting at the beginning of the season is a good opportunity to start making selections and weeding out any plants that aren't in good condition and may cause you problems later.
My whole philosophy around weed control is "weed early, weed often, all season long!" I have found this to be especially important with garlic as it is notoriously poor at suppressing weeds and has trouble competing with other plants. That means that getting an early jump on weeding the garlic beds can save you a lot of headaches later. It's important to remember that when the weather warms up, weeds can explode in growth over a few days and this can make cleaning the garlic bed way harder than it needs to be.
On my farm, I start weeding as soon as I can see the rows of garlic coming up, even if the weeds have barely come out of the ground. Sometimes I even weed when it looks like no weeds are present, however if you look under the soil you can see small weeds the size of a string starting to come up. That's my favourite and easiest time to clean them out.
Garlic is considered a heavy feeder and it requires a lot of fertility to grow properly. Healthy garden soil with lots of compost is usually rich enough, however, it is still important to make sure that the garlic plants have all the nutrients they need to grow strong and healthy for the whole season.
In spring, it is especially important for garlic plants to have adequate levels of Nitrogen so that they can grow all the leaves needed to help form large bulbs later in the season. Soil amendments added in the fall like compost often have high levels of organic matter with adequate amounts of nutrients like phosphorus, potassium, sulphur and most micronutrients but sometimes lack enough available nitrogen. Generally, amendments like alfalfa pellets, fish meal or other organic fertilizers contain higher levels of nitrogen.
So if it has been a cold, wet spring or if your garlic plants have been stressed early on in the growing season, it is always a smart idea to give the soil a little nitrogen-rich top dressing every few weeks. This will feed your garlic important nutrients and make sure you have good-sized bulbs at harvest time. For more information see How to Fertilize Your Garlic Properly.
About the Author: John Côté owns and operates John Boy Farms with his family who have been farming the same land for over 140 years. As an agronomist and experienced farmer, he helps other growers learn how to grow garlic successfully. He has written many articles and is the author of The Master Guide to Growing Big Garlic.