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Choosing the right location for Garlic and spring bulbs and how to plant them successfully

In the Garden

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Garlic and spring bulbs are great plants for eastern Idaho. They are very cold hardy and have a unique growing season. It is fun to see these plants come up in early spring and survive a blanket of snow as the new growing season gets underway.

One challenge for growing garlic is that it is subject to the onion white rot disease quarantine. All allium (ornamental alliums, onions, shallots, leeks, garlic and chives) bulbs, sets or transplants must be certified before they can be planted. The quarantine does not apply to crops grown from seed. Idaho counties subject to the onion white rot quarantine rule are Ada, Bingham, Blaine, Boise, Bonneville, Canyon, Cassia, Elmore, Gem, Gooding, Jefferson, Jerome, Lincoln, Madison, Minidoka, Owyhee, Payette, Power, Twin Falls, and Washington. Here is a link to a University of Idaho Extension publication on Idaho plant quarantines.

Garlic and spring bulbs do best when planted in the fall. They need to go through vernalization (chilling process) in order to break dormancy and produce flowers. That vernalization can be done in a refrigerator or garage, but you don’t get the benefit of fall root establishment.

Site selection

Bulbs will do best if they are planted in full sun locations with wind protection. Eastern Idaho’s strong spring winds can drastically shorten the blooming season of spring bulbs.

Soil and fertility

The soil should be rich and well-drained. The ground should be friable (crumbly) deep enough that the holes or trenches can be easily dug for bulb placement.

Blooming plant fertilizer should be applied prior to planting and worked into the soil, based on the label rate of the product. Any subsequent flowers or crops will also need to be fertilized for their growing season.

Daffodilinsnow
Daffodils in snow | Ron Patterson, EastIdahoNews.com

Planting

The rule of thumb for planting bulbs is to cover them approximately two to three times the diameter of the bulb. Spring bulbs (garlic, daffodils, tulips, hyacinth, grape hyacinth, crocus, etc.) will be planted anywhere from 2 – 8 inches deep, depending on the size of the bulbs. Irises are a rhizome and should be just barely covered by soil.

If you are going to plant just a few bulbs you can use a bulb planter tool. Places that plant thousands to millions of bulbs every year use a garden spade for intricate planting beds or machinery for commercial production.

  • Work the ground so it is easy to dig
  • Smooth the ground with a rake
  • Set the bulbs out
  • Using a garden trowel

When using a garden trowel, jab to the desired depth, pull back a little, place the bulb with the nose up, pull out the trowel and firm the soil over the bulb

  • Move to the next one

If the ground is properly worked, you can plant several bulbs a minute. It’s cool to watch the machinery for commercial production.

Since I plant my garlic in rows, I have a furrowing tool with which I make a deep furrow, then I plant the cloves and cover them as I go down the row.

Work now so you can enjoy early spring flowers.

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