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Planting garlic in fall is foolproof

Chicago has been called everything from "The Windy City" which first appeared in print in an 1858 Chicago Tribune article, to "city of the big shoulders" in Carl Sandberg 's poem. Of course in the same poem he calls Chicago "hog Butcher to the World," a nickname probably thankfully long lost to history.

Perhaps Chicago should be really called the Big Onion or the Big Garlic. Chicago got its name from the French pronunciation of the Miami Illinois Indian word "shikaakwa," meaning "wild onion" or "wild garlic," that grew around Lake Michigan.

Wild garlic or not, big shoulders won't be needed to plant garlic (Allium sativum L.) this fall. It's quite foolproof: just prepare the soil, separate the bulbs into individual cloves, plant them and forget them until next summer when you harvest five to six times what you planted.

Fall planting lets garlic set roots and grow underground and sprout early next spring just like daffodil or tulip bulbs. Garlic grows best in full sun, though it can tolerate some shade.

You can grow two main types of garlic: hardneck and softneck. Hardneck garlic (Allium sativum var. ophioscorodon) produces a flower stalk, called a scape, while soft neck garlic (Allium sativum var. sativum ) does not.

Garlic for planting is widely available or you can use organic garlic bought at farmers markets or health food stores. Try growing several different kinds of garlic and see which flavor you prefer. Climate can have a major impact on garlic flavor, and your garden might give you a flavor sweeter or hotter than the same variety grown nearby.

Plant garlic in a sunny location with well-drained soil with a soil pH between 6 and 7. Each clove will grow into a new bulb, and your largest cloves usually grow into the largest bulbs.

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