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How to Soak Garlic Before Planting

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Giving garlic (Allium sativum) planting cloves successive soaks in baking soda and seaweed, followed by alcohol and then hot water, will help eliminate fungal diseases, nematodes and white curl mites. An added precaution, removing the papery covers from the cloves, may eliminate any pathogens they may contain.

Garlic Clove Basics

It is better to buy garlic seed bulbs from a garden supply center rather than use supermarket garlic bulbs that are often been treated to prevent them from sprouting. Although garlic seed bulbs are often certified as being disease-free, you have no way of knowing their history, and soaking them yourself is an added precaution.

Garlic will grow as annuals in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 through 8. Garlic bulbs will be larger and fatter if you plant them in the fall for a late-spring or summer harvest. Plant garlic six to eight weeks before the first hard autumn freeze. If you live in an area with mild winters, plant them in February or March.

Softneck varieties, the kind you’ll likely find in the supermarket, prefer milder winters. Milder hardneck varieties have larger cloves and grow betters in areas with harsh winters.

Soaking to Kill Fungal Diseases

Garlic is susceptible to many fungal diseases including white rot, Botrytis, Fusarium and smut. To prevent fungal diseases from developing on newly planted garlic cloves, soak the cloves overnight in a solution of 1 tablespoon of baking soda and 1 tablespoon of liquid seaweed in 1 gallon of water. The baking soda zaps the fungi. The liquid seaweed encourages roots to grow.

If you soak cloves longer than 16 to 18 hours, they will start to grow roots. If you plant cloves with sprouting roots, the roots will break, leaving the cloves susceptible to disease.

Soaking to Kill Nematodes

Nematodes are small worms that live in the soil. Nematodes leave tiny pimplelike holes in garlic cloves as they come and go. To kill the nematodes that may be in garlic cloves before you plant them, soak the cloves for 10 to 12 minutes in water from 110 to 112 degrees Fahrenheit. This will kill the nematodes, but the cloves will still be good to plant.

Soaking to Kill Mites

If you open a soft garlic bulb that looks dried out and find a powdery white residue inside the cloves, you’re likely looking at white curl mites. If you examine the powder with microscope you’ll see the mites moving around. If you plant garlic cloves infected with white curl mites, the plant will become stunted and gnarled with yellow streaks on its leaves. To kill white curl mites that may have infected garlic cloves, soak the cloves in alcohol for a few minutes before you plant them.

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