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Plant Garlic Now for a Bountiful Harvest Next July!

By Frank Wertheim, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Professor, York County, Maine,

If you have ever tasted home grown or local farm grown garlic you know it is far superior in flavor to what you can buy in the grocery store. Garlic is an easy crop to grow and planting it in October/early November will ensure you a bountiful harvest this coming July — which will keep you in home grown garlic for the entire year. Get your soil ready and give it a try.

A Word About Garlic: There are basically two types of garlic we use for culinary purposes: Hardneck and Softneck. Both grow well in Maine, but there are differences.

Hardneck: The majority of the garlic grown in the northeast is of the hardneck type, which is so noted for its stiff “neck” or stalk and large cloves. Hardneck produces a scape, which is essentially a flower stock — though usually the flowers abort and produce “bulbils,” which are tiny aerial cloves. These can be saved and planted but will take two years to produce a bulb. If you want to experiment and have a cheap source of increasing your seed stock, give the bulbils a try. Many gardeners cut the scapes off as they develop and use them in stir fries, and some believe that this results in more energy going into the bulb, though research on this is inconclusive. The number of cloves produced from a hardneck bulb are usually few in number (4-8 per bulb), but huge in size. If a large clove is what you are after, you definitely want to grow hardneck varieties. Hardneck varieties don’t store quite as long as softneck, which is why many gardeners plant both types. Good hardneck variety choices for the northeast include German Extra Hardy (a local favorite), Russian Red, Killarney Red, and Montana Giant.

Softneck: Like the name implies, softneck varieties of garlic have a more pliable stalk, produce smaller but numerous cloves per bulb (12-20), do not produce a scape, can be braided for storage, and do store better than the hardneck type. Virtually all of the garlic purchased in grocery stores is of the softneck type. However, it is not recommended to use grocery store bought bulbs for planting as the varieties come from California and China and are not adapted to Maine growing conditions. Also, grocery store garlic may be treated with a sprout inhibitor to lengthen storage life. Good softneck varieties for the northeast include New York White (the local favorite), Artichoke, and Silverskin.

Planting stock: Good sources locally are Fedco-Seeds  and Johnny’s Selected Seed. Another alternative for getting a more economical source of garlic for planting is to purchase it from a local farmers market or farm stand. Locally grown garlic will be of the type hardy for this area and you can ask the farmer which varieties they have, and they won’t be treated with a sprout inhibitor

Soil Preparation: Garlic is best grown in a well drained soil as it won’t tolerate wet feet, and prefers soils high in organic matter. A raised bed would be an ideal location for growing garlic. Be sure and amend the soil with well rotted manure or, preferably, a quality compost. If possible spread 1/2 – 1 inch of compost over the entire planting area and work it into the first few inches of soil. As with most garden crops, garlic grows best when the soil pH is between 6 and 7. If you are not sure what your soil pH is, contact your local University of Maine Cooperative Extension county office for a soil test. There is still time to get a soil test done and work in the proper amount of lime if needed as you prepare the planting bed. If you amend the soil with manure or compost before planting no further fertilizer is needed until spring.

Cultural Practices:  

  • Garlic should be planted between October 1 and November 15 to give the clove a chance to develop some roots before it goes dormant for the winter.
  • Separate cloves from the bulb and plant root side down (pointed side up) about 2 to 4 inches deep, 6 to 8 inches apart in the row, and 12 to 18 inches between rows. A bulb planter used for tulips and daffodils is an excellent tool to get a number of cloves planted quickly.
  • In mid to late November, when the ground begins to freeze, mulch the planting bed with 6 to 12 inches of straw. This step insures the garlic won’t heave with the freezing and thawing of winter and will survive the cold temperatures. Pine needles are also a good source of mulch.
  • In early spring as the ground thaws, look for the green tips beginning to emerge underneath the straw. When they emerge, pull the straw back, but leave it in place between the rows. It will serve to keep the weeds down and the water in.
  • Fertilize in spring with a complete fertilizer such as 10-10-10 (3 lbs. per 100 sq. feet), or an organic complete fertilizer at roughly twice the rate, since they usually contain roughly half the nitrogen as chemical fertilizers.
  • As half of the leaves begin to die back in July, harvest the garlic by gently pulling on the stalk while prying beneath the bulb with a trowel. The clove you planted last fall will have magically turned into a multi-cloved bulb. Gently shake off the dirt, but do not wash before storage. Don’t wait until all the leaves have died-back or your bulbs will not store well.
  • Cure the garlic by hanging in a warm, dry, well ventilated place, such as a barn or attic, or lay them on a sheet of cardboard in the garage. Let them cure for two weeks.
  • Give bulbs a shake after two weeks of curing to remove more soil. Cut off the stalks of hardneck varieties and store them in a cool dry place. For softneck you can leave the stalks attached if you wish to braid and hang them for ease of use and aesthetics in the kitchen, or you may also cut off the stalks and store them with the hardneck varieties.
  • Save some of your biggest bulbs for planting the next fall.
  • Eat and enjoy!

More information on growing garlic, visit Growing Garlic in Minnesota, by University of Minnesota Extension, or Growing Garlic in the Home Garden, by Ohio State University Extension.

Information in this website is provided purely for educational purposes. No responsibility is assumed for any problems associated with the use of products or services mentioned in this website. No endorsement of products or companies is intended, nor is criticism of unnamed products or companies implied.

Image Description: garlic; photo by Edwin Remsberg

Growing Garlic in Maine

Growing garlic

Garlic is a popular home garden crop in Maine, but little research-based information is available about optimal planting and harvest times. That’s why University of Maine Cooperative Extension launched a participatory research initiative called the Maine Garlic Project.

For $5, growers receive a garlic bulb, a data collection form and a discount on a soil sample test. Data ranging from planting, mulching and harvest dates to bulb size, appearance and flavor will be compiled.

The Maine Garlic Project, led by Extension staff members Steve Johnson and Dave Fuller, also is designed to raise awareness of the bulbous herb.

Among Johnson’s favorite facts about garlic:

  • Garlic likely originated in Central Asia.
  • Ancient Greek, Indian, Chinese and Egyptian writings mention garlic.
  • Reportedly, garlic was once used as currency and clay models of garlic bulbs were found in the King Tut’s tomb.
  • A large portion of the garlic in the U.S. is grown and processed in Gilroy, Calif., where there is an annual garlic festival.
  • The two main types of garlic are hardneck (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon) and soft neck (Allium sativum var. sativum). Elephant garlic is not true garlic and is more closely related to leeks than garlic.
  • More than 100 biologically active compounds (mostly sulfur-containing), including alliin, alliinase, allicin, S-allylcysteine and diallyl sulfide, come from garlic.

Image Description: garlic; photo by Edwin Remsberg

Maine Home Garden News — July, 2010

July is the month to . . .

By Hannah Todd, Horticulture Aide, Somerset and Piscataquis Counties,

  • Keep the vegetables coming! To get a continuous supply of vegetables during the summer and fall consider succession planting of vegetables like beans, beets, lettuce, radish, carrots, etc. Remember you can always use season extension methods later in the fall to protect crops.
  • Start/continue harvesting your early crops like lettuce, spinach, etc. Peas are typically ready for harvest around the 4th of July.
  • If you haven’t done so already, stake up tomatoes. This can help protect them from disease as they will receive better aeration. Staking will also make it easier to prune and monitor the plants.
  • Side dress vegetables, such as tomatoes and corn, as they begin to set their crops. Never add fertilizer to bone dry soils. Either water it in or add it when the soil is already moist.
  • Renovate strawberries after harvest is complete. For more information see Bulletin #2067,  Growing Strawberries.

  • Check your vegetable and flower gardens for insect or disease pests at least once a week, on a dry day. Don’t know what is causing damage? Bring a sample into your local UMaine Extension county office or send us a digital picture of the problem. Also check out UMaine Extension’s pest management for homeowners Web site.
  • Fertilize annual flowering plants regularly during the summer to maintain growth.
  • Dead head flowers to maintain flowering habit during the summer.
  • Got one or more woodchucks/groundhogs wreaking havoc in your garden? Live traps work for removal and traditional wire mesh fences, buried 1 foot below ground and 3 to 4 feet above, will help deter them. They are not a game animal so shooting them is always an option, too, but be sure to check local ordinance before taking that “final” step. The USDA Wildlife Services have wildlife biologist on hand to help with homeowner questions and concerns. You can reach them at (207) 629-5181.
  • Pull weeds before they set seeds and then add mulch over the soil to reduce future weed growth and to reduce fungal disease spores from splashing onto plant foliage. The mulch will also preserve soil moisture.
  • July can be a dry month, so be prepared to water. The garden needs an inch to an inch and a half of water a week. A 10′ x 10′ garden will need 60 gallons of water. Save your back from lugging all that water—see our publication on trickle irrigation, Bulletin #2160, Trickle Irrigation: Using and Conserving Water in the Home Garden.
  • Use proper canning and freezing techniques to preserve the bounty of your garden. If you don’t know proper food preservation methods, call your local UMaine Extension county office.
  • Learn something new! Attend a UMaine Extension event. To find out what’s going on, visit our calendar.
  • Visit a garden center or demonstration garden to get some new ideas for your perennial gardens. Among others, the Augusta Arboretum and the Boothbay Botanical Gardens are worth a visit. Contact a local garden club to see if there are any demonstration/destination gardens in your hometown. You never know one could be growing right in your backyard!

The Maine Garlic Project: A Participatory Research Project
By Steven B. Johnson, Ph.D., Extension Crop Specialist, and David Fuller, Extension Agricultural Professional,

Garlic is grown in every county in Maine. Much of the management information used to produce garlic ranges from myths to reality has not been generated under Maine conditions. Despite this, respectable garlic crops are produced. Better organization and quality of production data can only improve garlic.

The Maine Garlic Project is a participatory research program with gardeners and market farmers in Maine. Gardeners and market farmers will be contributing to the overall knowledge of garlic and garlic production in Maine. Specifically, goals of the Maine Garlic Project include development of optimal planting and harvest times for different areas of the state. A benefit would also be cataloging fertility used to produce the crop, raising the awareness of home-produced food. The project may add a new crop to many home gardens. Participants will buy into the program for a $5 cost-recovery fee where they will receive a garlic bulb in the mail along with planting instructions and data collection information. Data collected will be the date and location where the garlic is planted (county and town), soil test number (from the Maine Soil Test Report), any added fertility, the variety of garlic, mulching date, emergence date, maturity date, harvest date, bulb measurements, and ratings on bulb appearance and flavor. Those wishing to participate with their own garlic stock are welcome to supply information. From collected data, it is hoped that the goal of optimal planting and harvest times for different areas of the state could be developed.

Growing Garlic in Maine
By Steven B. Johnson, Ph.D., Extension Crop Specialist, and David Fuller, Extension Agricultural Professional,


Garlic has been cultivated for thousands of years and is widely used in many cultures. Hardneck garlic varieties (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon) produce a flower stalk, technically, a scape, and are difficult to braid.

Soils and Fertility

Garlic will grow in almost any well-drained, friable soil, preferably with good organic matter content and a loose growing bed. Ideal pH is between 6 and 7. Garlic is a heavy feeder, requiring more than 100 pounds per acre of N P and K. This is about five tablespoons of 10-10-10 for six cloves. Incorporate the fertilizer before planting. Additional N in the spring could be added as shoots emerge and again about two to three weeks later. Add about a quarter of the preplanting rate at each spring fertilizing.


Separate individual cloves from the bulb up to two days before planting. Cloves separated for longer than two days tend to dry out. Plant the cloves with the pointed side up so the point is covered with two to four inches of soil. Planting dates range from end of September to the second week of October, from north to south, or about two weeks after the first hard freeze. Plant the cloves in a row 6 inches apart and 8 inch spacing between rows.


About four weeks after planting, cover garlic row with a two-inch to four-inch layer of mulch. Remove the mulch after the threat of hard freezes is over.


Scapes (flower stalks with small aerial bulbels) may be removed as they straighten out, perhaps as soon as they come out.

Harvesting and Curing

Harvest dates range from late June to early August, from south to north. Harvest when half or slightly more than half of the leaves remain green. The bulbs should fully be developed and well formed with a tight outer skin. Dig the garlic with a garden fork with the shoots and roots still attached. Dry the harvested plants in a dark and well-ventilated area. After about three to four weeks of curing, the shoots and roots should have dried down. Cut the tops to about one-half to one inch above the main bulb and trim the roots close to the base of the bulb.


Store the harvested garlic in the dark at 32° to 40°F with 60% to 70% relative humidity. Alternately, garlic can be stored at room temperature with 60% to 70% relative humidity. Temperatures between 42° and 52° F will cause sprouting; and humidity greater than 70% tends to promote rooting.

Recognizing and Managing Invasive Plants: Sweet Autumn Olive
By Dr. Lois Berg Stack, Extension Specialist, Ornamental Horticulture; Dr. Mary Rumpho, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Univ. of Maine; and Dr. Donglin Zhang, Associate Professor of Horticulture, University of Maine. For more information, contact


Sweet autumn olive (Elaeagnus umbellata) has long been planted by homeowners and land managers as an ornamental shrub, a hedgerow plant, and a provider of food and cover for birds. Unfortunately, over the years, it has become a highly invasive plant in New England and other regions of the United States.

What does it look like?

Sweet autumn olive is quite distinct, particularly when it displays its fragrant flowers in June, or its colorful fruits in August-October. With a little practice, you can learn to recognize it easily even as a young seedling.

Sweet autumn olive is a twiggy shrub that reaches 12-15′ in height and width. Its leaves are bright green on top and silver-green below, 1-3 inches long, oval with a blunt or pointed tip, and they alternate along the stem. Their edges are often slightly wavy. If you look at the leaves with a hand lens, you’ll see an unusual texture: the lower leaf surfaces are covered with silvery-white scales. Few plants have this characteristic. The stems are slender and often spiny.

The shrubs reach maturity in as little as three years, at which time they produce 1/2-inch long, funnel-shaped flowers in June; these are pale yellow and highly fragrant. The fruits that develop from the flowers are 1/4″ – 1/3″ in diameter, slightly longer than broad, and juicy. If you look closely at the fruits, you’ll see another unique identifying trait: the fruits are covered with scales that look like gold-silver flecks.

How and where does sweet autumn olive invade new sites?

Birds eat sweet autumn olive fruits and distribute the seeds over long distances. Mature plants produce more than 60,000 seeds each and germination rates exceed 50%. The plants fix nitrogen, allowing them to survive in very infertile soils. They also tolerate salt, drought, and very acid soils. These facts, taken all together, explain why sweet autumn olive readily colonizes roadsides, abandoned fields, utility rights-of-way, woodland edges, and disturbed soils in landscapes.

How can I control sweet autumn olive?

No single method controls this plant. By combining the following methods, you can manage it:

  1. Do not purchase or plant this species. Scout your neighborhood; you might be able to organize a neighborhood management effort of prevention and management. Because birds carry seeds from one site to another, this is not a single-landowner problem; it’s a community problem.
  2. Learn to recognize the plant as a young seedling (see the photo in this article) and scout your property. Hand-pull young seedlings when they are easily removed from the ground. By removing them before they reach maturity, you can prevent future seed crops. Watch for the seedlings as you weed your garden.
  3. Mowing or cutting back to the ground is not effective, as sweet autumn olive readily produces new growth. However, if you are unable to eradicate the plants, you can cut back the stems before the fruits mature in the fall, thereby preventing a new crop of plants.
  4. Several herbicides are labeled to control this plant. E-mail for specific recommendations.

If I remove this plant from my landscape, what can I plant in its place?

Most people who plant sweet autumn olive value it for its rapid growth, fragrant flowers, and fruits that feed birds. Some alternatives that are native to Maine include

  • Dogwoods: Red osier dogwood (Cornus sericea), silky dogwood (Cornum amomum) and gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) produce abundant fruits for birds over many weeks. More than 100 birds are reported to eat gray dogweed fruits.
  • Chokeberry: Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa) produces beautiful white flowers in May and black fruits that disappear quickly as birds eat them in August. As a bonus, most black chokeberries develop spectacular red/maroon/scarlet/orange fall color.
  • Winterberry: Ilex verticillata is a popular landscape plant, whose red fruits support birds in late fall and early winter.
  • Viburnums: Maine boasts seven native viburnums. While all are susceptible to viburnum leaf beetles, they are excellent landscape plants where the beetles are not problematic. Nannyberry (Viburnum lentago) and wild-raisin (Viburnum nudum var. cassinoides) are widely available at nurseries. [Note: while not native, two other viburnums, Burkwood viburnum (Viburnum x burkwoodii) and Koreanspice viburnum (Viburnum carlesii) produce very fragrant flowers in spring, and are much less susceptible to viburnum leaf beetles.]

Where can I find more information?

Check our fact sheet Autumn Olive / Russian Olive, Bulletin #2525.

Protecting Yourself from Ticks
By Kathy Murray, Ph.D. Entomologist, Maine Department of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources,

Ticks and tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease are much in the news. With good reason — the incidence of Lyme disease and its vector, the deer tick, also called the black-legged tick, have been increasing annually, with record numbers in 2010. There are about a dozen additional tick species in the state. Ticks aren’t enough to keep Mainers indoors but you should take steps to protect yourself, your family and your pets.  Here’s how.

Avoid Tick Habitat

Wooded areas with shrubby undergrowth, grassy edges adjacent to woods, and open grassy areas are favorite tick habitats. Walk in the center of wooded paths and avoid vegetation along path edges or avoid tick-infested areas when possible. Keep pets out of tick-infested areas too.

Cover Up Outdoors

  • Wear long sleeves and long pants that are tight around the wrist, ankle, and neck. Tuck pants into socks. Yes, you’ll look like a nerd, but it beats getting Lyme disease!
  • Use a repellent containing DEET according to label directions — particularly on shoes, socks, and pant legs. Avoid applying high-concentration products to the skin, especially on children.
  • People who must be in areas where ticks are prevalent may pre-treat protective clothing with a permethrin-containing product which both repels and kills ticks. Caution: this is not for use on skin; use only as directed on the label.
  • Inspect yourself, your clothing, your children, your companion, and your pets for ticks when you return indoors. Ticks often attach in body folds, behind ears, and in the hair. If possible, shower and wash clothes immediately. Heat drying is effective in killing ticks.
  • To protect pets, consult your veterinarian about tick repellents or, in high risk areas, the Lyme vaccine for dogs.

Create a Tick-Safe Zone Around Your Home

Tick numbers can be reduced by making simple landscape changes to your property.

  • In transition area between lawn and woods, keep a well-manicured border. Trim back tree branches that overhang the lawn. Clear out low brush, vines and leaf litter. Keep weeds cut. Install a wood chip, mulch or gravel barrier where your lawn meets the woods. The dry barrier makes it more difficult for the ticks to migrate.
  • Reduce habitat for small mammals such as mice that support tick populations by clearing away brush, leaf litter, fallen trees and rocks each year. Compost or bag and remove leaf litter. Avoid use of ground cover vegetation in frequently used areas. Place woodpiles far from the house.
  • Mow grass and brush low (3-4″).
  • Move bird feeders away from areas where people and pets play. Don’t feed birds in spring and summer. Birds and rodents (that feed on spilled feed) carry ticks.
  • Select deer-resistant flowers, shrubs or trees (see Landscape Plants Rated by Deer Resistance, Rutgers: New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station) to keep deer and their hitchhiking ticks away.

Removal of Ticks

  • Use fine-tipped tweezers or a tick removal tool (readily available at stores) to remove attached ticks. Grasp the tick as close to the skin surface as possible and pull upward with steady, even pressure. Do not twist or jerk the tick; this may cause the mouthparts to break off and remain in the skin. If this happens, remove mouthparts with tweezers.
  • Do not squeeze, crush, or puncture the body of the tick because its fluids may contain infectious organisms.
  • Do not handle the tick with bare hands because infectious agents may enter through mucous membranes or breaks in the skin.
  • Apply antiseptic to the bite and wash hands with soap and water.
  • Consult a physician if you remove an engorged tick. Save the tick for identification in a small vial of alcohol. Medical care should be sought when a person is bitten by a deer tick or is exhibits Lyme disease symptoms.

For More Information:

Image Description: Squash Bug

Image Description: garlic

Image Description: sweet-autumn-olive

Image Description: ticks


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University of Maine Cooperative Extension

Contact Information

Cooperative Extension: Garden & Yard
5741 Libby Hall
Orono, Maine 04469-5741
Phone: 207.581.3188, 800.287.0274 (in Maine) or 800.287.8957 (TDD)E-mail:
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
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