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Garlic Questions

Posted by dancercr Zone 3a (My Page) on
Wed, Aug 20, 14 at 1:51

Hi everyone!
Okay. I need some help! I should preface with the fact that this is my first year vegetable gardening, and I feel a little overwhelmed (although all I'm growing - or trying to - is garlic, beets and spinach).

In regards to my garlic, I am at a total loss. Here's the scoop:

We had a VERY late spring here (most planting didn't happen until mid-June). I know garlic is best planted in the fall, but I read that you can plant in the spring as well. I planted some garlic in a pot outside, and some in my vegetable garden as well. I planted a few cloves in the pot as I was told that since our winters are so harsh, I could try bringing it into our basement and letting it go 'dormant'. However I also planted some in my garden so that come harvest time I could compare which was better.

I got my garlic at Rona, however I'm not sure if it's softneck or hardneck (although based on my research I *think* it's softneck).

All of the garlic in the pot 'sprouted', in that they all grew very thin, grass-like extensions, and about half of them in the vegetable garden sprouted the same sort of thing.

I recently noticed that all of the 'sprouts' in the pot are completely gone, and all but one of the grass-like sprouts in the vegetable garden are gone (and the one that is remaining is lying flat on the ground).

I expressed this concern to my roommate, who gave me a clove of hardneck garlic to try planting, and so I planted it in a spare spot in the pot - and it shot up with huge scapes (or what I assume are scapes, as they look like all the images on google, but different than what the other cloves I planted look like) right away - and is still going strong.

SO. As it stands, my pot still has a bunch of cloves in it, but only one (the singular hardneck) has anything coming out above the soil, and the other cloves no longer have anything growing above the soil level.

In my vegetable garden, there are still multiple cloves as well, but only one has the 'grass' sprouted out of it, laying flat on the ground.

So here are my questions:

1 - what was the grass-like extensions growing out of the garlic I planted in June? They aren't scapes...they look very different.
2 - Whatever they are - those 'sprouts' - what happened to them, and does that mean that the garlic underneath is no longer healthy and growing?
3 - When should I 'harvest' the garlic that I've planted in the vegetable garden? Should I mulch the vegetable garden and pick it next summer (in which case it will have been in the ground for a year), or should I harvest it this fall and replant some cloves for a spring harvest?
4 - What should I do with the pot? Mulch it and leave it outside like the vegetable garden, and harvest it next year? Or bring it inside and let it go 'dormant', and harvest it next year?

I'm SO sorry for all of these questions. I really thought I had an idea of what to do at the beginning of the summer, but I've been told so many contrasting things and now I'm just so confused.

If anybody out there has had the patience to read this far through, thank you! And if you could answer my questions, it would be greatly appreciated as well!

Thank you!

PS - I am in Zone 3a, and our winters here are the among the coldest in the world (I'm in Winnipeg, Canada).

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Garlic Questions

"I planted a few cloves in the pot as I was told that since our winters are so harsh, I could try bringing it into our basement and letting it go 'dormant'."

Midsummer to fall is the time for garlic to be dormant. If left to its own devices the leaves die down completely and all signs of the plant disappear aboveground (this is what happened with yours and goes along with your second question). It's not dead, it's just waiting for fall to start growing. Then winter comes and it doesn't grow during winter but as soon as the temps start rising it quickly springs to life. Garlic is very hardy and should survive your winters.

"I know garlic is best planted in the fall, but I read that you can plant in the spring as well."

Fall planted is best. As I said above, the cloves have time to put down roots and establish themselves and will be ready to grow as soon as it can. If you spring plant you have to do it in early spring as soon as the ground thaws enough that you can get the cloves in the ground. But the resulting bulbs from spring planted cloves won't be as large as those planted in the fall.

"When should I 'harvest' the garlic?"

You're already late on harvesting. The time to harvest garlic is in midsummer when you notice that about half its leaves are brown. The green leaves that are left when you harvest will become the bulb wrappers. If you wait until all the leaves are brown the bulb wrappers will disintegrate and the bulbs won't store long. If you do it sooner you might lose some bulb size but depending on how much sooner the size difference will be negligable. Always better to harvest earlier than later.

So what do you do now? Dig around in your pot and garden and you should find the now dormant bulbs if they haven't rotted. They will probably have exposed cloves at this point (or they might just be rounds) but they should still be usable and you'll be able to replant them in the fall (if they are worth replanting). However, they will not store as long as garlic that was harvested at the right time.

"Should I mulch the vegetable garden and pick it next summer (in which case it will have been in the ground for a year)?" "What should I do with the pot? Mulch it and leave it outside like the vegetable garden?"

It is best to dig up and replant garlic every year. Leaving them in the ground for another year does not increase their size. In fact it does the opposite. Every clove will resprout and they will grow in a clump and compete with each other resulting in smaller bulbs. So this goes with my above paragraph. Harvest now and replant in the fall. If you choose to plant in the pot again, bury the pot up to the rim in the garden so that it's not exposed aboveground and leave it there for the winter (burying the pot helps insulate it and protects both it and the plants inside from temperature extremes). In spring you can pull the pot out of the ground.

Some photos of the plants (the one in the garden and the hardneck in the pot) would help to go along with your descriptions of the leaves as I'm having a somewhat difficult time visualizing them.


RE: Garlic Questions

Hi Rodney,
Thank you so much for your response!
I have added a photo below - the one of the one garlic with 'leaves' in my garden.
I know I'm late on harvesting, but had I harvested mid-summer, my garlic would only have been in the ground for 4-6 weeks (as I mentioned, our spring was incredibly late). At this point, they've been in the ground for about 8 weeks.

So I should dig up all the little cloves and replant them in a couple of weeks (when our first frost is expected)?

RE: Garlic Questions

In my opinion, you should give up on the cloves with grass-like greens. The growth is stunted. Here in NH I grow hard neck garlic. The scape is the flower blossom and it is edible and tasty provided you cut it off before it starts to make a second circle (they loop around). I think the hardneck actually has a stem that goes right to the root base. I don't think that once a plant has been stressed as much as yours has been that you should try to revive it nor try to use as a start for new plants.

RE: Garlic Questions

I grow garlic, planted in the fall, and harvested about mid-July. It's hardneck which is hardier than softneck. If I were you, I'd get some new garlic from a reputable supplier, plant about mid-September or so (you want it warm enough for root growth, but don't want top growth until spring) and then mulch it heavily over and around the whole garlic bed, perhaps 6' deep of something that will be fluffy enough to provide good insulation. Don't plant in raised beds which get colder in winter than in ground beds.

I'd also dig up what you have in your pot and garden and use it soon if it's in good shape.

RE: Garlic Questions

Agree with the others. Harvest the ones you've planted. You could replant yours but it would probably be a couple years or so before the bulbs sized back up. So unless the garlic you are growing are either hard to find or expensive to buy, it would be best to start with fresh stock planted in the fall. And as has been mentioned, hardneck garlic are usually hardier and will probably do better for you than softnecks.


RE: Garlic Questions

Alright. Thanks so much everyone!!!

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