BOISE, Idaho — The leaves are changing colors and temperatures are dropping, which can only mean one thing: fall is in full swing and gardening season is coming to an end.
There is one vegetable, however, you can plant during the cool fall days that will grow through the winter for a harvest next spring: garlic.
In this edition of "You Can Grow It", we show you how easy it is to plant garlic and why it will probably be something you'll want to include in your garden from now on.
There are two types of garlic: the hard-neck and the soft neck variety.
The hard-neck has a stiff stem and typically larger bulbs. It's the kind most chefs and professional cooks use because of its intense flavor. However, this garlic has a shorter shelf life.
Soft-neck garlic has a softer, more pliable stem. You'll typically find this kind in the grocery store, and it lasts longer in storage.
It is illegal to plant grocery store garlic in Idaho because of the risk of a fungal disease called White Rot, which could be devastating to Idaho's garlic and onion industry. Be sure to buy only certified garlic seed stock locally or online.
Garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves turn yellow and brown and start to wilt and dry out. Lift one of the garlic plants to make sure it is ready. If it is a good-sized bulb with lots of cloves and covered with papery skin, you'll know the rest are ready to dig up.
Once all of the garlic is harvested, it needs to cure. Curing allows the energy from the leaves to go into the bulbs as they dry. Plus, properly cured garlic can last several months in storage.
Tie the garlic together in clusters of four to eight plants and hang them up to dry in a shaded, dry, well-ventilated place for about three or four weeks. The outer covering of the bulb dries out, making a protective cover for the soft cloves inside.
Once the papery skins are dry, trim off the roots and the stalks.
Garlic likes good organic, loose soil. Carefully separate the cloves and plant each one in a hole about three inches deep, root side down, spaced about six inches apart. Carefully cover them with soil.
It's also a good idea to cover them with mulch or dead leaves.
That's it, set it and forget it.
Once the garlic is planted, nothing else needs to be done. When the leaves come back in the spring, water the garlic regularly until it's ready to harvest.
A good rule of thumb is to plant on Halloween and harvest on the Fourth of July. You'll be amazed at how easy it is to get a delicious crop of fresh garlic.
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