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garlic 2011

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

These are a hard neck variety

 

Dug in compost and planted late October before first snow, but was cool. Had good top growth but the resulting bulbs are small as are the heads. Heads the size of walnuts. Last year i at least got heads the size of a golf ball.  I was hoping that head and bulb size would improve, not degrade. I planted the best sized cloves from the batch too.

 

We had a cool wet spring well into June. Debating if I should even bother replanting from these bulbs or buy/be given some new bulbs for next year. Is the naturalization I got from one season worth preserving in this stock or should I go for something wtih better production.

 

My friend who gave me the cloves originally had smaller heads this year too, but more  like mine were last year. I think my dad totally lost his garlic crop that I started him on last year. He didn't do much with them though and were probably too shaded.

 

I do like the flavor and sharpness of this unknown to me variety. Such as hassle to work through a bunch of small cloves to equal a normal clove though.

 

Conditions, Zone 5, clay soil.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #2 of 9

Several thoughts, Phil:

 

1. Other than compost have you added anything to the soil? Garlic is a heavy feeder, and requires amending, particularly if planted in the same place. In addition to compost, I work in dried blood, bone meal, and hardwood ashes at the rate of one cup each per ten row feet or equivilent. Long about may I side-dress with the same amendments.

 

2. Lack of sun? Garlic requires lots of sunshine to develop fully.

 

3. Did you clip the scapes? In addition to being a culinary treat of their own, if you leave the scapes much of the plant energy goes to them, instead of to bulb formation.

 

4. Soil too heavy? While garlic will grow just about anywhere, it prefers a light, open soil. Clay isn't it's favorite. Opening the soil with loam or a good topside helps bulb development.

 

5. Spacing? Although the literature says 4" spacing is fine for garlic, most growers prefer 5" or more to assure plenty of room for bulb development.

 

6. Weeding? Like all alliums, garlic are intolerate of competition from weeds. For best results, garlic beds should be kept as clear as possible.

 

In addition, it's possible this particular variety isn't happy where you are. While no means as day-length sensitive as onions, they are, nevertheless, responsive to day-length.

 

You also don't know the potential best results of this variety. It's quite likely that golf-ball sized is all she wrote under the best of conditions. Given a combination of negatives you can expect much smaller than that.

 

Were it me, I'd give it one more year, providing the best environment you can. If they still don't grow as large as you like you can make a decision then whether or not to continue them.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the info.

 

I'll save the best of the lot for some trial planting next year.  And add a different variety too that might be happier at my house.

 

 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #4 of 9

Phil, if your garlic bed is open, you might consider planting turnips in it now. Turnips help break up clay. If you don't care for the tops, they can be tilled back in to further help develop tilth. Many turnips have a 60-70 days to maturity period, which leaves you plenty of time to get the garlic in.

 

If you don't care about being 100% organic (that is, according to the Feds) there's a quick way of building tilth. Spread a very thick layer of sawdust (the mills will practically pay you to haul it away). Six to ten inches is none too thick. Mix in some ammonium nitrate. And stand back. The sawdust will decompose in about two weeks, and you can till it in. Or just leave it on the surface as the start of a tilth layer.

 

Ideal is to do it twice. Till in the first batch, then start a second and leave it as a topsoil layer. Then just keep adding compost and organics.

 

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 

Sorting them by size and clearing out the big dirt clods (all nice and dry now) I found 4 or so more with scapes that formed underground. A few heads have what appear to be scape formation at the non-root end of the head as well. Won't know for sure until they cure and I start using some. I might break one of the small ones open to see but that can wait until tomorrow.  Maybe I planted them too deep this year too.

 

An no matter how far away you start digging and how careful you are, it always seems that you cut the best heads in half with the shovel.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #6 of 9

Hmmmmmm? Are we using the word "scape" the same way, Phil? I've never heard of one forming underground.

 

On hardneck varieties scapes are, in essence, a flower stalk (even though garlic does not set flowers or seeds). After the plant has obtained it's growth, a round, solid "stem" grows from the top. At the end of that is a bulbous mass that sometimes contains tiny bulbils (depends on the variety). The stem part will curl; again, depending on variety, from as little as a half turn to as many as two full turns.

 

The entire growth is called a scape. The bulbous math is a spath.

 

In general, the scapes will begin to grow about a month before full development. If you pinch them off, where they emerge from the leaves, all the plant's energy will go into bulb formation. If you don't, the bulbs will be smaller than their potential.

 

So, I don't know what the growths are that you refer to.

 

I also noticed that you use the words "bulbs" and "heads" as if they were different things. Again, I don't understand, because bulb and head are  synonyms, referring to the bulbous mass that grows underground. About the only time garlic growers call it something else is when there's an undifferentiated head, in which case it's called a "rounder."

 

Rounders are fine to eat. Or you can cure them as usual, then replant in the fall, and they'll develop into a full-sized, differentiated bulb the following spring.  

 

The only problem with planting too deeply is that it makes it more difficult to lift the bulbs. It shouldn't have any effect on bulb formation.

 

Are you using a regular shovel to lift the bulbs? There is a specially shaped one---long and thin---designed for that purpose which does make it a little easier. Either way, if you're cutting bulbs it's because you're starting the blade too close to the plants. Come out at least six or eight inches from the stem, push the blade down at a very slight angle, and use it as a lever to literally lift the bulbs out of the ground. That should solve that problem for you.

They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #7 of 9

I used to follow my Grandmother around the garden when I was a kid. I can remember her getting sawdust and layering it with the ashes from

our burn pit. She was full of old wives tales or maybe the truths. I can remember the garlic comming in. We would twist the stems of every single one.

She explained in Italian that we twist the plants so God would not make so many garlic babies. I know I was small but I remember the garlic

the size of baseballs. I know the garlic was originally from Italy. I'll tell you how she used it for medicine another day.

pan

FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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FOR YEARS I LIVED TO WORK! NOW I WORK TO LIVE!
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post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

last year, they formed  the spath I guess it was on the main stalk above the ground.  This year those mini bulbs formed mostly underground, but still on the stalk.

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #9 of 9

Garlic is a very rapid naturalizer and will for the most part be well adapted in roughly 2 or 3 seasons.  You certainly will see a shift in bulb size from season to season but it shouldn't matter terribly much as long as (like mentioned) they are getting substantial food and water.  Oddly there is, according to "How to Grow Great Garlic" no correlation between clove size and final head size although there is supposedly a correlation between stalk size and final head size.  *shrug*.  I personally would thing stored energy in the clove would translate to overall head health but who knows.  He also mentions in the book that the garlic growing community is divided on to cut or not to cut scapes.  I always cut them for the reasons addressed by KYHeirloomer. 

 

From my observation the predominant characteristic for head size seems to be variety.  After that it's care, the season and then optimal harvest time.  I wait until 5 green leaves remain before harvest, as suggested in the book.  This gives ample time for final head formation while retaining final wrappers for storage.  If you want an excellent and huge 5 clove variety grab some German Hardy (also have seen it labeled as German extra hardy).  If I had only one variety to grow it would be that one.  I typically grow 4 hardnecks (GEH, Romanian Red, Rosewood, Spanish Roja) and a softneck (Dixon).  I typically get normal variation within the types, so out of about 100 or so plants per type I would on average see small, medium and large head formation from them all.  I always save the best heads for seed stock.  Between the varieties there are absolutely differences in head size.  The Rosewood has very small head size, but fairly large (4) clove size. 

 

Also some notes on what might be happening as well which is another observation....I have seen my best crops in cooler, wetter, longer springs.  The past season I saw an overall degradation in head size/harvest weight, but the plants matured almost a MONTH early!  There is most likely a very strong correlation to that fact as well.  What you are seeing might be typical and could be a result of climate change.

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