It is the time of year to plant garlic. There are many excellent references to tell us how to plant and grow garlic. One of the best is Bob Anderson’s at Gourmet Garlic Gardens (see website at www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com)
When planting garlic a very important item to be aware of is that there are a number of diseases and pests that can affect garlic. The best time for preventative measures is during planting. Once established, many of the diseases and pests can remain in the soil for years. Being new growers, we have not come across any diseases and pests. To learn more about garlic diseases and pests see Cornell University’s Garlic disease factsheet .
Prevention is the best way to deal with these potential problems. To be proactive, we are starting to pre-soak garlic seed cloves prior to planting them as recommended by Bob Anderson . For this fall’s plantings, we are soaking newly acquired planting stock (controlled treated control group). If results show that the treated garlic grows as good or better than the untreated garlic cloves, then at next year’s planting we will soak our own seed stock and any new acquired planting stock.
Here is the basic practice:
- When the soil is fully ready to be planted, take the bulbs to be planted and break them apart into their individual cloves.
- Inspect the cloves at this time and discard any that don’t look right. Exaime the “The heart and soul” of the garlic or the basal plate. It is located at the bottom of the clove. It is where the roots will extend downward to gather nutrients and moisture, and where the stem and leaves cloves will emerge upward seeking light, air and the sun.
- Soak the cloves overnight in a solution of one heaping tablespoon of baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) and one tablespoon of liquid seaweed per gallon of water.
- Then follow up with a three or four minute soak in either 100 proof vodka or rubbing alcohol (Ethanol Alcohol) just before planting.
The idea is that the soda soaking helps neutralize any fungi and the alcohol kills any pests and pest eggs and any pathogens that the first soaking missed. The liquid seaweed also protects the cloves from fungus as well as giving them an energy boost.
Organic means it has been grown without synthetic pesticides, artificial fertilizers and no chemical preservatives. So, are these substances allowed under National Organic Program (NOP) rules? Here are the findings based on our search of the OMRI Generic Materials List :
Alcohol, Ethyl (Ethanol)
Status: Allowed with Restrictions
Class: Crop Management Tools and Production Aids
Description: May be used as an adjuvant or inert ingredient in combination with active pesticide ingredients. Provided, That, use of such substances do not contribute to contamination of crops, soil, or water.
NOP Rule: 205.601(a)(1)(i) .
Sodium Bicarbonate – pesticide
Status: Allowed with Restrictions
Class: Crop Pest, Weed, and Disease Control
Description: May be used for other pesticide purposes only if the requirements of 205.206(e) are met. Provided, That, the conditions for using the substance are documented in the organic system plan.
NOP Rule: 205.206(b)(3), 205.206(d)(2) & 205.206(e
Seaweed and Seaweed Products
Class: Crop Fertilizers and Soil Amendments, Crop Management Tools and Production Aids
Description: Nonsynthetic and not prohibited or synthetic and allowed.
NOP Rule: 205.105 & 205.601(j)(1)
 To learn more, a great source for garlic diseases information is Cornell University’s Garlic disease factsheet:
 The Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) provides organic certifiers, growers, manufacturers, and suppliers an independent review of products intended for use in certified organic production, handling, and processing. See website at www.omri.org/omri-lists