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Planting location is critical for growing garlic successfully in California. Garlic needs full sun with cool-to-warm temperatures. The growing season for garlic in warm-winter California areas is from fall through spring, which coincides with the least sunlight and shortest days. Be sure to plant garlic in an area that will receive full sun throughout the winter.
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. See Watering Tips for Softneck Garden Garlic for more watering information.
Garlic 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 tolerates cold temperatures provided that the bulbs don’t freeze, but may be damaged or growth slowed by frost. GardenZeus recommends covering plants with sheets of paper, cardboard, fabric, or plastic during mild frosts in warm-winter California areas.
Garlic prefers loose, loamy, fertile soil with high organic matter and good drainage at pH of about 5.8 to 6.8. Garlic is a moderate feeder that needs good soil fertility with sufficient nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and micronutrients to produce optimal bulbs. It grows well in a variety of soils provided that drainage and fertility are sufficient. To test your soil pH, see Mud Pies and Fizz: Easy Home Tests for Soil pH or Tips for Testing Soil pH at Home with a Soil pH Meter.
Work compost and composted manure into soil before planting. Garlic benefits from supplemental nitrogen about once per month in most soils for the first few months (before bulbing). 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. Avoid adding nitrogen and other amendments or fertilizers during the last 2-3 months before harvest.
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