Spacing and Seasonal Timelines for California Poppy (Eschscholzia california)

Seeds can be scattered at the rate of one seed every 2-3 inches or about 20 seeds per square foot, ideally just before fall or winter rainy periods. Leave seeds at the soil surface undisturbed, or rake gently into soil. While counter-intuitive for many gardeners, it’s best not to cover California Poppy seeds with soil. When irrigation or rainfall might be forceful enough to disturb or wash away seeds, cover with a thin layer of about 1/16-to-1/8-inch fine soil or sand.

When planted densely or with vigorous germination, plants may remain smaller in a dense mat and often won’t reach maximum size or bloom optimally. Thin as seedlings or space seeds about 4-6 inches and thin as seedlings for final spacing of 8-12 inches between plants for optimal size and blooming.

Under suitable environmental conditions, California Poppy seeds normally germinate in about 8-30 days, longer during cold weather. For more information, see Planting and Growing California Poppy (Eschscholzia california).

California Poppy normally begins blooming about 55-75 days after germination, or potentially longer during cold weather.When cut back or deadheaded after blooming, plants may re-bloom during periods of cool-to-warm weather or until spring or summer heat waves arrive. California Poppy can bloom almost year-round in mild-winter, mild-summer areas. For tips about deadheading and re-blooming, see California Poppy: Tips and Precautions for Care and Watering.

For more information on growing California Poppy, see:

Planting and Growing California Poppy (Eschscholzia california)

California Poppy: Tips and Precautions for Care and Watering

Soil and Microclimate Tips for California Poppy (Eschscholzia california)

 

 

Soil and Microclimate Tips for California Poppy (Eschscholzia california)

California Poppy needs full sun during cool-to-warm weather. It is perennial, but also grows as an annual in gardens and in wild areas where summer temperatures exceed about 90°F for long periods or where winter temperatures drop below about 15° to 20°F. It grows and yields best at daytime temperatures of about 55° to 80°F.

Established plants may die back or go dormant during summer heat. In hot-summer areas, California Poppy suffers and may be killed by prolonged periods at temperatures of 90°F or higher. In areas where plants might survive the summer, they are often cut back severely, to stubs of about 1 inch, after going dormant.

California Poppy tolerates frost to about 20°F or below. Established perennial plants may tolerate cold snaps to 15°F or below.

Good drainage is essential for growing California Poppy. It is sensitive to overwatering and wet soils; also to coarse or sandy soils that dry quickly. It prefers well-drained clay and loamy soils but tolerates and often thrives in poor or infertile soils provided that they drain well (such as clay soil on hillsides), and tolerates a wide range of soil pH from about 5.2 to 8.3, with an ideal pH of about 6.5 to 7.5. It may germinate poorly, underperform, and need more-frequent watering in coarse and sandy soils.

Many California native landscape plants don’t tolerate soil fertility, and suffer or die in the rich, microbially active soils needed for vegetable gardens. California Poppy is partially an exception; it makes a reasonable companion in garden borders that receive less water, or interplanted with established non-native plants in well-drained soils where watering is infrequent. While normally best kept to drier soils, it can be grown among or beside vegetables and perennials, especially in raised beds and soils that drain well. When grown in rich soils that remain constantly wet or moist, California Poppy tends to suffer from root rots and other diseases. It may produce more vegetative growth and fewer or no flowers in fertile soils, especially those that are high in nitrogen.

GardenZeus has customized growing information by plant and zip code. To get started, enter your zip code here.

For more information on growing California Poppy, see:

Planting and Growing California Poppy (Eschscholzia california)

California Poppy: Tips and Precautions for Care and Watering

Spacing and Seasonal Timelines for California Poppy (Eschscholzia california)

California Poppy: Tips and Precautions for Care and Watering

California Poppy (Eschscholzia california) is among the most care-free and lovely California-native flowering plants, and among the easiest to cultivate in urban landscapes. See Planting and Growing California Poppy (Eschscholzia california) for more info about planting, environmental needs, and benefits it provides.

Watering: The best method for watering California Poppy is generally drip irrigation, especially in heavy soils, which allows for infiltration of water over time. Consider installing drip irrigation before planting, which can save hassle and damage to plants later on. California Poppies can also be hand-watered. Frequent sprinkler or overhead watering may encourage disease.

Broadcast or sow seeds into moist or pre-irrigated soil. California Poppy can become extremely drought-tolerant once established in clay and loamy soils, after several months to a year when grown as a perennial, but is less so than some gardeners might expect when grown as an annual. It doesn’t establish as well in coarse and sandy soils, and more frequent watering may be needed. In warm-winter areas, California Poppy may need no supplemental water from fall through spring when rainfall is sufficient.

During dry periods within the first several months to a year after planting, California Poppy performs best with supplemental water about once every 4 to 8 weeks in clay soils during cool weather, and about every 2 weeks in clay soils during warm-to-hot weather. In sandy soils, California Poppy may need supplemental water about every 2 to 4 weeks during cool weather, and about every 1 to 2 weeks during warm-to-hot weather. Seedlings and younger plants may need more-frequent watering.

Care, maintenance, and tips:  Minimize fertilization for California Poppy. Plants perform well in most soils provided that drainage is sufficient.

California Poppy tolerates frost to about 20°F or below. Established perennial plants may tolerate cold snaps to 15°F or below.

Walking on soil or working near California Poppy plants may compact soil and encourage diseases, especially when soil is wet after irrigation or rain.

California Poppy blooms are known for closing at night, on cloudy days, and before or during rain.

California Poppies don’t make good cut flowers. They lose their petals quickly after flowers are cut. For a short-lived bouquet, you can try harvesting mature buds before they first open.

During cool-to-warm weather after plants have completed bloom cycles, provide supplemental water and deadhead to encourage reblooming. Deadheading also provides a cleaner look that accentuates the attractive foliage, and prevents seeds from developing if you don’t want California Poppy to spread throughout your landscape (see below). When cut back or deadheaded after blooming, California Poppy can bloom almost year-round in mild-winter, mild-summer areas.

In hot-summer areas, California Poppy plants will die or die back during prolonged periods at temperatures above about 90°F. Plants may go dormant in response to summer heat. In areas where plants might survive, they are often cut back severely, to stubs of about 1 inch, after going dormant.

Reseeding: California Poppy seedpods often burst open forcefully and scatter seeds to a surprising distance. Seeds tend to move downhill with waterflow or wind, and get caught in channels and nooks here and there. It seems to exhaust every possible complaint about plants if we consider a lovely, native flower like California Poppy to be potentially invasive, but remember that unless spent blooms or seed pods are removed, particularly in dry and non-irrigated areas, plants will likely re-seed themselves, sometimes in surprising locations or areas where you might not want them.

Scattered seeds often sprout with fall or winter rains. Both original native strains and other varieties may reseed or naturalize. Varieties bred for color will often revert back to orange-yellow or yellow.

Weed seeds also often sprout with fall and winter rains. If you want California Poppy to naturalize and reseed itself year after year, be diligent in removing weeds and weed grasses every year before they go to seed to minimize competition and prevent buildup of a bank of weed seeds in your soil.

GardenZeus has customized growing information by plant and zip code. To get started, enter your zip code here.

For more information on growing California Poppy, see:

Planting and Growing California Poppy (Eschscholzia california)

Soil and Microclimate Tips for California Poppy (Eschscholzia california)

Spacing and Seasonal Timelines for California Poppy (Eschscholzia california)

 

Cauliflower: 6 Tips for Success

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Although cauliflower has a reputation as being one of the more difficult vegetables to grow and  is certainly vulnerable to both hot and cold temperature extremes, it can be grown successfully. GardenZeus expert Darren Butler recommends that you give it a try, despite its reputation for difficulty. The following are his tips for succeeding with cauliflower:

1) Select appropriate varieties. If you have had poor results with cauliflower, try varieties that tolerate both heat and cold, such as the hybrid Casper.

2) Grow cauliflower in rich, fertile soil. Brassicas are moderate to heavy feeders and need sufficient macronutrients and micronutrients.

3) Timing: Start consider starting seeds indoors in ideal germinating conditions for later transplant outdoors during ideal growing conditions.

4) Transplanting tips: Transplant seedlings during the first 5 to 10 weeks while they are still growing actively; don’t let them sit in their cells or small pots long enough that they become rootbound and senescent. Transplant cauliflower deeper than seedlings were in cells or pots to protect the root crown.

5) Start seeds and grow transplants in fertile, living, consistently moist soil that is loose and friable to at least 6 to 12 inches in depth. Grow in full sun during cool weather. Provide shade during unseasonable heat waves.

6) Plant cauliflower (and other brassicas) away from most other garden vegetables and most other plants in general. Brassicas do not form the relationships with the mycorrhizal fungi that are so helpful to many garden vegetables. The miraculous work of micorrhizae for garden vegetables that you may have heard or learned about might be at the expense of your cauliflower and other brassicas. Mycorrhizae may be capable of colonizing brassicas and “stealing” nitrogen from them to provide it to other garden vegetables. GardenZeus expert Darren Butler generally recommends that cauliflower and other brassicas be grown separately and at a distance of at least several feet from other vegetables, with 20 to 30 feet or more being ideal.

Single dig or double dig soil to loosen to a depth of at least 12 inches, remove stones and obstructions, and add compost or well-rotted organic matter shortly before planting cauliflower.

GardenZeus recommends planting cauliflower from purchased transplants, especially when attempting to grow it for the first time or if you have not succeeded previously with cauliflower, but it’s critical to be sure that varieties are appropriate for your growing conditions (nurseries might not always offer appropriate varieties for their local areas) and to check that individual plants are not diseased, rootbound, or senescent.

When transplanting, spread roots of seedlings gently outward and downward to encourage a deep, spreading root system. While some experts recommend tearing off excess roots at transplanting, at GardenZeus, we prefer to minimize damage to seedling roots during transplant. Plant slightly deeper than the level at which starts were in packs or pots, and tamp soil gently. Water immediately after transplanting.

Start cauliflower seeds indoors about 4 to 8 weeks before transplants are needed. Starts may need to be transferred to larger pots or growing containers at least once before being transplanted outdoors, or germinate seeds from the beginning in larger 3-to-4-inch planting pots.

Broadcast seeds or plant individually directly outdoors during appropriately cool weather. Plant seeds about ¼-inch deep. While maturing cauliflower plants need temperatures in the 60s to form the best curds, seeds germinate best at warmer temperatures of 70° to 85° F, and they have a long seedling period of about 4 to 10 weeks. Seeds must be kept moist for germination, which may require misting or watering with a gentle, fine spray 2 or more times per day.

GardenZeus has customized growing information by plant and zip code. To get started, enter your zip code here.

GardenZeus has detailed growing instructions for many vegetables, herbs and annuals ideal for fall planting in Southern California.  For ideas see:

Growing Garlic in the California Home Garden

How are Growing Carrots Like Riding a Bike?

Getting Started With California Poppy

Planting and Growing California Poppy (Eschscholzia california)

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Many California native plants that are adapted or bred for urban landscapes have a reputation for being fussy with special needs, or being difficult to grow. California Poppy is the opposite. It requires little more than scattering seeds from fall through late winter or early spring in warm-winter California areas; and occasional watering, especially during warm-to-hot weather when grown as an annual, or in coarse or sandy soils.

California Poppy is among the very best options, native or otherwise, for lovely, resilient, and somewhat-drought-tolerant bedding flowers and mass plantings in temperate and mild-winter California areas. It becomes extremely drought-tolerant after establishing a thick taproot of several inches or longer, most reliably in cool areas, such as in California coastal areas and in mild temperate-climate areas with cool summers.

California Poppy thrives in almost any well-drained soil, and is a long-time reliable solution in Mediterranean climates for color on hillsides and in other difficult areas. It attracts and provides food for various native and non-native insects and pollinators. It can bloom almost year-round in mild-winter, mild-summer areas.

Cultural needs and environmental conditions: California Poppy needs full sun during cool-to-warm weather. It is perennial, but also grows as an annual in gardens and in wild areas where summer temperatures exceed about 90°F for long periods or where winter temperatures drop below about 15° to 20°F. It grows and blooms best at daytime temperatures of about 55° to 80°F. Established plants may die back or go dormant during summer heat.

Good drainage is essential for growing California Poppy. It prefers well-drained clay and loamy soils but tolerates and often thrives in poor or infertile soils provided that they drain well (such as clay soil on hillsides), and tolerates a wide range of soil pH from about 5.2 to 8.3, with an ideal pH of about 6.5 to 7.5. It may germinate poorly, underperform, and need more-frequent watering in coarse and sandy soils.

Many California native landscape plants don’t tolerate soil fertility, and suffer or die in the rich, microbially active soils needed for vegetable gardens. California Poppy is partially an exception; it makes a reasonable companion in garden borders that receive less water, or interplanted with established non-native plants in well-drained soils where watering is infrequent. While normally best kept to drier soils, it can be grown among or beside vegetables and perennials, especially in raised beds and soils that drain well. When grown in rich soils that remain constantly wet or moist, California Poppy tends to suffer from root rots and other diseases. It may produce more vegetative growth and fewer or no flowers in fertile soils, especially those that are high in nitrogen. See Soil and Microclimate Tips for California Poppy (Eschscholzia california) for more information.

Planning and preparation: California Poppy has two subspecies: 1) Eschscholzia californica californica, with the well-known yellow-orange blooms; and 2) Eschscholzia californica mexicana, or Mexican Gold Poppy, which blooms yellow, with a native range primarily in the Southwestern United States and Northwestern Mexico. Varieties are available in a range of colors, with mixes available including Confetti (orange, white, pink, red, and yellow single blooms); Mission Bells (rose, red, white, orange, and yellow double and semi-double ruffled blooms); and Spring Melody Blend (rose, red, white, orange, and yellow double and semi-double blooms). California Color Flower Mix includes California Poppy and many other native wildflowers.

The best planting season for California Poppy is fall through late winter or early spring in most of California. The winter growing season coincides with the least sunlight and shortest days. Be sure to plant California Poppy seeds in an area that will receive full sun throughout the winter. Consider planting multiple rounds of seeds for staggered germination and flowering, especially early or late in the season when California Poppy is vulnerable to heat and/or cold. Original and native strains may naturally germinate more variably and over a longer period, a helpful trait for the species’ survival in the wild, but which also tends to result in a variable or scattered blooming.

California Poppy plants may form dense mats or grow in more upright form. They normally grow from about several inches in height to about 12 or 14 inches tall, but under ideal conditions with ample spacing can grow to about 2 feet tall.

Germination and planting: California Poppy may be sold in nurseries as seedlings but dislikes roots disturbances and does not transplant well. Broadcast or sow seeds directly outdoors into moist, pre-irrgated soil or directly before fall/winter rainy periods.

Seeds can be scattered at the rate of one seed every 2-3 inches or about 20 seeds per square foot. Leave seeds at the soil surface undisturbed, or rake gently into soil. While counter-intuitive for many gardeners, it’s best not to cover California Poppy seeds with soil. Be cautious with irrigating seeds; hand watering or flooding may wash away seeds or move them to lower areas and channels. When irrigation or rainfall might be forceful enough to disturb or wash away seeds, cover with a thin layer of about 1/16-to-1/8-inch fine soil or sand.

Seeds germinate most reliably at cool-to-warm temperatures of about 60° to 70°F, and may take up to 30 days or longer to germinate at colder temperatures. Misting or watering once or twice daily may improve or speed germination. Seeds planted into coarse or sandy soils may need watering daily for optimal germination, especially during warm weather. Seedlings need sufficient moisture during the first few weeks after germination.

When planted densely or with vigorous germination, plants may remain smaller in a dense mat and often won’t reach maximum size or bloom optimally. Thin as seedlings or space seeds about 4-6 inches and thin as seedlings for final spacing of 8-12 inches between plants for optimal size and blooming.

GardenZeus has customized growing information by plant and zip code. To get started, enter your zip code here.

For more information on growing California Poppy, see:

California Poppy: Tips and Precautions for Care and Watering

Soil and Microclimate Tips for California Poppy (Eschscholzia california)

Spacing and Seasonal Timelines for California Poppy (Eschscholzia california)

10 October Garden Tasks

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October is an ideal month to plant cool-season vegetables, herbs and annuals in Southern California’s areas of coastal influence. It’s an uncertain month for planting in inland areas due to possible further heat waves, but efforts to plant during cool-to-warm weather are often rewarded, especially when gardeners are able to monitor carefully and provide extra water and shade during any late heat waves. Regardless of what is on your fall planting list, place these 10 tasks on your gardening to-do list:

  • Irrigate new garden beds, wait 10 to 21 days prior to planting to flush weed seeds, and remove or till in weed seedlings.
  • Inspect and repair raised beds, garden structures, fencing, hose bibs, and drip or other irrigation systems. Install drip systems prior to planting.
  • In new beds or compacted soils, double-dig or loosen soil with a spading fork and remove stones and obstructions shortly before seeding new crops.
  • Amend soils prior to planting by surface dressing and/or gently working in compost, organic matter, manures, and other amendments.
  • Add organic amendments such as compost and composted manures to existing perennials, winter-blooming/bearing plants, and actively growing plants. Avoid fertilizing (especially with nitrogen) near perennials or trees that go dormant over winter.
  • Water trees, shrubs, perennials, and established annuals deeply and slowly between periods of rain. Many plants and trees may need watering only every few weeks to few months during cool weather.
  • Decrease sprinkler frequency to lawns and small bedding plants. Check city watering guidelines as they often change for fall.
  • Remove spent or expired vegetable and other plants and clean up organic yard waste to avoid rat harborage and minimize overwintering insect pests and microbial pathogens.
  • Replenish your compost pile with diseased-free/pest-free fallen leaves and organic yard waste from October cleanup and throughout autumn as plants and trees go dormant.
  • Refresh mulch to conserve soil water and inhibit weed growth during winter rains.
  • Inspect exteriors of homes and buildings to locate and repair any gaps or holes large enough for mice/rat entry including vents, eaves, and crawlspace entryways.

GardenZeus has customized growing information by plant and zip code. To get started, enter your zip code here.

GardenZeus has detailed growing instructions for many vegetables, herbs and annuals ideal for fall planting in Southern California.  For ideas see:

Growing Garlic in the California Home Garden

How are Growing Carrots Like Riding a Bike?

Getting Started With California Poppy

Watermelon Radishes: Ideal Additions to a Holiday Platter

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Mantanghong radishes are the most popular of the Chinese radishes, growing up to 3 inches in diameter with a mild, sweet flavor in approximately 65 days. With light green exteriors and fuchsia interiors, Mantanghong, or watermelon, radishes make visually spectacular additions to a appetizer or vegetable platter. To purchase Mantanghong radish seeds click here.

Microclimate. Radishes will generally thrive in any cool, sunny area with reasonably loose and fertile soil. They will grow in part shade, but produce smaller roots and a smaller harvest over a longer period of time when not in full sun, and if they do not receive enough sun, may fail to form bulbed roots.

Soil Preparation. Double-dig or loosen new, compacted, or clay soils and remove stones and obstructions to at least 6 to 12 inches shortly before planting. Radishes prefer reasonably fertile, uniform, well-drained soil with sufficient potassium and moderate-to-high organic matter to a depth of at least 12 inches (deeper for larger and carrot-shaped varieties), but will tolerate difficult soils. Preferred soil pH for radishes is 6.5 to 7.0. They may tolerate significantly more acidity and slight alkalinity, but may not produce quality roots quickly under these soil conditions.

Planting. Seed radishes directly: plant a set of 2 seeds 5 inches apart. Radish seeds germinate best at temperatures between about 60° and 85° F, and produce the best-quality roots at temperatures between about 50° and 65° F.

Amending. Use caution with application of nitrogen. GardenZeus recommends adding nitrogen in the form of diluted urea or a cup of chicken manure diluted in 4 gallons of water (half cup if fresh manure) and mixed thoroughly, applied as a soil drench once when radish sprouts are 1 to 2 inches tall.

Mulching. Use a quarter-inch fine mulch for small starts when they reach 2 to 3 inches in height; increase to half-an-inch or more of fine-to-medium mulch after plants are at least 4 to 5 inches tall.

Watering. Radishes need uniformly moist but not wet soil to produce good-quality edible roots. Radishes generally require regular watering, especially in sandy or light soils. In clay and heavy soils, water slowly over time to encourage infiltration to the full depth of the radishes’ roots. Do not allow soil to dry between waterings. Overwatering or wet soil may result in poor root formation, shallow rooting, and/or rotting or diseased roots. Underwatering or soil dryness between waterings, especially during the first several weeks after germination, may result in poor root formation, split roots, bolting, and tough or pithy roots.

Radishes make excellent container plants. See Container Gardening With Lettuce, Radishes and Carrots. 

Growing radishes are also an excellent way to improve your soil sustainably. See  Sustainable Gardening: Growing Radishes to Improve Soil.

GardenZeus has customized growing information by plant and zip code. Don’t know your GardenZeus climate zone? Click here.

 

Growing Garlic in the California Home Garden

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Garlic may be grown less-often than many other vegetables in the California home garden because of its long growing season of about 5 to 8 months and its sensitivity to soil and environmental conditions, especially to overwatering and wet soils, which can result in rot or low yields after months of effort. Garlic doesn’t yield well when planted in spring in California warm-to-hot-summer areas, when planted into new or infertile soils, when the wrong subspecies is planted (see below), or when overwatered.

The moderate challenges with garlic may discourage some gardeners; however, when garlic is planted during the appropriate growing season and a few simple-but-important cultural needs are met, it can be easy to grow and among the most rewarding of garden vegetables, providing spiciness and flavor that is absent from many vegetables, a long-lasting yield from small spaces, storage for long periods to be enjoyed for many months (up to 10 months or longer with ideal storage conditions for some varieties), and with hundreds of unique varieties available to gardeners that normally can’t be purchased in markets.

Under adverse conditions or when its needs aren’t met, garlic plants may grow slowly or become stunted, bulb poorly, or become prone to pests and diseases. GardenZeus expert Darren Butler offers the following tips for growing garlic successfully in warm-summer, warm-winter California areas with mild frosts or no frosts:

Cultural needs and environmental conditions: Garlic needs full sun during cool-to-warm weather. It grows and yields best at daytime temperatures of about 50° to 75°F. It needs warmer temperatures within this range for bulbs to mature fully, and tolerates short periods with temperatures of up to 85°F or higher once established.

Garlic is a moderate feeder that prefers loose, well-drained soils that are high in organic matter at pH of about 5.8 to 6.8. It suffers in compacted, uncultivated, or infertile soils. It doesn’t compete well for soil nutrients with other plants, and should be planted without companions or with shallow-rooted, light feeders only. Avoid planting garlic repeatedly in the same soil, in soil where other alliums have been planted in the past 2 growing seasons, or in soils exhausted by heavy feeders. See Soil and Microclimate Tips for Softneck Garden Garlic and GardenZeus Alert: Beware of Heavy Feeders.

Planning and preparation: When selecting garlic varieties, be aware that garlic flavor (the unique taste of garlic) is distinct from heat or spiciness. You may prefer mild-flavored garlic that is also hot, or strongly flavored garlic with mild spiciness.

hardneck garlic

Hardneck garlic (above) has a visible stem in the middle of the cloves.

 

softneck garlic

Softneck garlic does not have a central stem.

 

Garden garlic has two subspecies: 1) Softneck garlic (var. sativum) with artichoke, silverskin, and creole types. It produces larger yields of mild-flavored bulbs (that may be hot or spicy), store well, and may be braided for hanging. 2) Hardneck garlic (var. ophioscorodon) with rocambole, porcelain, purple-stripe, and asiatic/turban types. It has stronger and more complex flavors with shorter storage life for bulbs; and produces edible flower stalks called “scapes.”

Garlic scape

Garlic scape

 

Grow softneck garlic only in warm-summer, warm-winter California areas with mild frosts or no frosts. Hardneck garlic is rarely grown successfully for bulbs in warm-winter areas because it requires vernalization (cold weather) and a long day length with cool temperatures for bulbing.

The best growing season for garlic is fall through spring in most of California because garlic suffers in hot weather. The winter growing season coincides with the least sunlight and shortest days. Be sure to plant softneck garlic in an area that will receive full sun throughout the winter.

The best availability of seed garlic (cloves and bulbs) is in a narrow window from about September through November, and it may have limited availability or be hard to find for the rest of the year. Preorder in July or August for best selection. For best yields, avoid planting garlic sold at markets or as food because of higher likelihood for disease and possible treatment to inhibit sprouting. In mild-winter, mild-summer areas of California, garlic can be grown year-round or almost year-round. At times of year when seed garlic isn’t available, plant large cloves from bulbs purchased at farmers markets. Treat any garlic purchased from food markets before planting (see below).

Watering: The best method for watering garlic is generally drip irrigation, especially in heavy soils, which allows for infiltration of water over time. Consider installing drip irrigation before planting, which can save hassle and damage to plants later on. See Watering Tips for Softneck Garden Garlic for more watering information.

The winter growing season is also the rainy season for most of California. Garlic is prone to disease during prolonged periods of rain or when overwatered, especially when planted in heavy clay soil or in any soil that lacks good drainage. Water may pool below the soil surface or in compacted areas underground, with poor drainage sometimes being problematic even when the soil surface is dry. For many reasons garlic rarely thrives when planted into heavy or infertile soils. The best solution for many gardeners and in most uncultivated soils is to plant garlic in raised beds that are at least 8-12 inches deep and filled with loose, fertile soil that is high in organic matter and holds moisture but drains well during winter rains.

Germination and planting: Garlic is grown from cloves (smaller tubular, pointed portions of a bulb), often referred to as “seed garlic,” but which are not actually seeds. Store seed garlic (cloves and bulbs) until planting without breaking up bulbs and in a cool or cold, dry, dark place with air circulation, such as in braids or in mesh bags (not below freezing temperatures and not in a refrigerator). When bulbs are cracked or broken, individual cloves tend to degrade and spoil quickly, within days to weeks.

Garlic sprouting

Garlic sprouting

 

Plant cloves directly outdoors after weather cools in fall. Avoid planting shriveled or damaged cloves, and any that are moldy or have visible fungal infection. Technically cloves sprout rather than germinate but gardeners and gardening guides often apply the two terms interchangeably to garlic.

GardenZeus recommends a 2-part soaking process for garlic cloves prior to planting to reduce or eliminate fungal spores or infections, harmful bacteria, mite and nematode eggs, and other pathogens and pests. The first treatment is soaking cloves for a few hours or overnight (at least 2 hours and up to 12 hours), in a solution of 1 teaspoon baking soda per quart of water. Adding a teaspoon of liquid seaweed extract per quart of water is optional but can help encourage rapid initial growth. This first soak can be followed by soaking cloves for up for several minutes in 70% isopropyl or rubbing alcohol. For 90% or higher isopropyl alcohol, dilute slightly with 20% additional water. Cloves should be planted immediately after being soaked in alcohol.

Amend soils with generous proportions of composted manure and nutrient-rich compost. Single-dig or double-dig soil to loosen it to a depth of at least 12 inches, remove stones and obstructions, and add compost and composted manure shortly before planting garlic.

It’s especially important in clay and heavy soils to loosen soil for several inches or more below the level where cloves will be planted. If you dig or loosen soil only to the depth of planting, this may create a zone just below the garlic roots where water tends to pool and cause disease. Wet soils and overwatering, or water pooling beneath soil surfaces, may be the most common reason for poor bulbing and failure of garlic crops in California.

In gardens with new, uncultivated, infertile, or compacted soils, plant garlic cloves into raised beds that are at least 8-12 inches deep and lined with half-inch hardware cloth to exclude gophers. Use a mixture of washed sand, topsoil, and up to 20% composted manure and nutrient-rich compost in the beds.

Planting individual garlic cloves.

Planting individual garlic cloves.

 

Plant garlic cloves under at least 1.5 inches of soil. Large cloves may produce larger bulbs, and can be planted under 2 inches of soil. The rounded or wider end of each clove (from the bottom of the bulb) will produce roots and should be planted down with the pointed or narrow end at top. If you can’t determine which end of the garlic clove is up, plant the clove sideways. See Spacing and Harvest Timelines for Softneck Garden Garlic.

Plant garlic into previously irrigated/moist soil, and be cautious about overwatering while cloves are sprouting, especially in cool soils, which may encourage rot. If planted into moist soil, garlic cloves often don’t need additional water until soil is dry down to at least a half-inch-to-an inch and/or cloves are fully sprouted. At this stage you can often check sprouting by moving soil from above a few cloves or prodding gently through loose soil to feel for stems.

GardenZeus has customized growing information by plant and zip code. To get started, enter your zip code here.

For more information about growing garlic see:

Garlic Care and Maintenance in the California Home Garden

Harvesting and Curing Garlic

Harvesting and Curing Garlic

A few simple tips and techniques can make the difference for an abundant, high-quality garlic harvest that stores well for long periods.

Season length to harvest can vary depending upon many environmental factors including seasonal temperatures and soil fertility. Most softneck garlic varieties need at least 6 months from fall through spring to reach maximum bulb size. Artichoke varieties under ideal conditions may have good bulb size within 5 months. Silverskin varieties may need 7-8 months or longer for full-sized bulbs.

Stop all fertilizing and amending of garlic 2-3 months before harvest. Minimize watering garlic for about 2-4 weeks before harvest, and discontinue watering entirely for at least 1-2 weeks before harvest (longer during cool weather). For best-quality bulbs, stop watering entirely when plants are nearing harvest and the lowest leaves turn yellow or brown. This usually begins a few weeks before bulbs are fully mature.

You will know that garlic is almost ready for harvest when leaves on mature plants begin to yellow and turn brown. This begins with the lowest leaves and continues upward. Harvest softneck garlics when the lower half of a plant’s leaves are yellowing to brown, and the upper half (about 4-5 leaves) are still green or mostly green. Timing of harvest is important. If you harvest too early bulbs may not be full sized or the paper covering of bulbs may be thinner, which may reduce the storage period. If you wait to harvest until all leaves are yellow or brown, cloves may burst through their skins, which also results in a short storage period.

Harvest garlic by removing the entire bulb from below. A garden fork is preferable to a trowel or bladed tools because the fork minimizes damage to bulbs and allows for harvest with roots still attached, which results in better curing and longer storage. Work around and underneath the bulb at a distance of an inch or two to loosen soil and remove the entire plant. Try to retain at least a few inches of roots. Avoid contact with the bulb, pulling by hand, or forcing when harvesting, which may split or harm bulbs and cloves. Any damage to bulbs or cloves will cause rapid deterioration and/or a short storage period. Avoid exposing bulbs to sunlight at any time after harvest and while curing.

Cure garlic bulbs after harvest, especially if they will be stored for more than a few weeks. The curing process closes off vascular tissues in stems and allows the skins on bulbs to harden, providing the best conditions for long storage. Smaller bulbs may be fully cured within a week or two during warm, dry weather; while larger bulbs may require 4 weeks or longer, especially during cool weather or under humid conditions.

Cure garlic bulbs either indoors or outdoors, and in a dry, shaded, cool-to-warm area with good air circulation. Carefully remove clumps of soil but avoid washing bulbs and leave stems and roots untrimmed while curing.

Braided garlic

Braided garlic

Braid garlic after plants have cured but while stems remain flexible. Retaining tops on garlic helps to extend storage period. For space-efficient storage after curing, stems can be trimmed to about 1 inch length above the bulbs, and roots should be trimmed to about 1/4 inch. Brush loose dry soil or loose skin layers off of bulbs before storing. If the bulb has multiple skin layers, remove the outer layer for cleaner storage with fewer fungal spores. Softneck garlics can be braided for hanging in bunches or in mesh bags.

If planning to replant from your own garlic harvest, save the largest bulbs as seed garlic for next planting season (larger cloves usually grow into larger bulbs). Sort out remaining undamaged bulbs for storage, and use any smaller bulbs, loose cloves, or damaged bulbs in the kitchen as soon as possible.

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Growing Garlic in the California Home Garden

Garlic Care and Maintenance in the California Home Garden

 

 

 

Garlic Care and Maintenance in the California Home Garden

If you planted softneck garlic during the appropriate cool season, in well-drained soil with sufficient fertility and nitrogen, you may find that it has sprouted vigorously and has become an easy garden companion. See Growing Garlic in the California Home Garden.

Garlic needs full sun during cool-to-warm weather. It grows and yields best at daytime temperatures of about 50° to 75°F. It needs warmer temperatures within this range for bulbs to mature fully, and tolerates short periods with temperatures of up to 85°F or higher once established. It’s prone to stress and reduced yields during spring heatwaves in areas where temperatures may exceed 85°F by March or April.

Garlic is a moderate feeder that prefers loose, well-drained soils that are high in organic matter at pH of about 5.8 to 6.8.

Watering: The best method for watering garlic is generally drip irrigation, especially in heavy soils, which allows for infiltration of water over time. Consider installing drip irrigation before planting, which can save hassle and damage to plants later on. See Watering Tips for Softneck Garden Garlic for more watering information.

Care and maintenance: Maintain consistent soil moisture. Avoid watering with sprinklers. Prevent wilting. Walking on soil or working near garlic plants, especially when soil is wet after irrigation or rain, may compact soil and encourage diseases.

Garlic tolerates light frost, but plants may perform and yield best when covered with sheets of paper, plastic, or cardboard during frosts. Provide sufficient water and shade during heatwaves.  See GardenZeus Tips for Shading Vegetables During Hot Weather.

Garlic benefits from supplemental nitrogen about once per month in most soils for the first few months (while growing leaves and before bulbing). Large, healthy garlic plants during the first few months produce larger bulbs later on. Add nitrogen in the form of diluted urea or a cup of chicken manure diluted in 4 gallons of water (half cup if fresh manure) and mixed thoroughly. Avoid adding nitrogen and other amendments or fertilizers once aboveground plants are full-sized and during the last 2-3 months before harvest.

Weeding and mulch: Garlic is more sensitive than most vegetables to competition from weeds and companion plants. Bulb size will be reduced if weeds or other plants are allowed to compete with garlic for nutrients. Pull or clip weeds when small to avoid root disturbance to garlic. Use a half inch of medium-textured organic mulches such as straw or pine-needles to discourage weeds (see picture above) but also allow air circulation to the soil, and to prevent too much moisture being trapped in soils. Avoid thick or heavy mulches for garlic, such as bark chips. Keep mulch 2-3 inches away from garlic stems to avoid encouraging stem rot.

GardenZeus has customized growing information by plant and zip code. To get started, enter your zip code here.

For more information about growing garlic:

Growing Garlic in the California Home Garden

Harvesting and Curing Garlic

 

 

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