Garlic formed clusters of cloves not bulbs?

dan_nz_gardenerJanuary 7, 2014

Hi all,

Just harvested my garlic bulbs, all nice size but they haven't formed bulbs, there's no papery wrapper around them, just a large cluster of cloves stuck randomly together to form an one of the ugliest garlic harvest iv ever seen. I'm not fussed about how they look but if they will still keep? And does anyone know the cause?
I noticed about 6 weeks ago instead of a single stem they started forming heaps of tiny leaf shoots from centre of plant. Grown in fertile soil with occasional water with worm wee fertiliser.


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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

Perhaps you waited much too long to harvest? Can't leave them in the ground too long or they start to regrow...


    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 6:27PM
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Hi hortser

I always plant June and harvest January. And the main stem has only just browned off as it does at harvest time? They haven't resprouted just grown in a peculiar way, thanks for your input though

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 7:22PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

You have to harvest garlic when more than half of the leaves are still green. Extension of those leaves make the wrapper around the cloves , keeping the bulb in one piece.

    Bookmark   January 7, 2014 at 11:14PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Agree with Hortster... it sounds like the garlic was left in the ground too long.

Even if you harvested at the same time as previously successful, different weather - such as an extra warm or early Spring - could cause the garlic to ripen earlier. Garlic should be harvested based upon the browning of the leaves, rather than the calendar. Different garlic types have different maturities, but as Seysonn stated, there should still be green leaves when harvested. Those green leaves form the bulb wrapper. There is a great reference for harvesting the different types of garlic in the link below (scroll down to "When should I harvest garlic?").

"I noticed about 6 weeks ago instead of a single stem they started forming heaps of tiny leaf shoots from centre of plant."

Those tiny leaves were most likely the cloves sprouting; that happened to me one year. Garlic normally enters dormancy prior to the cloves sprouting, but we had a lot of rain that year just as the bulbs were maturing, and the cloves of some of my artichoke garlics sprouted while most of the leaves were still green. Never had that happen with any of my hardnecks, though.

The cloves you harvested are good for planting or eating... but unfortunately, without the bulb wrapper, they will keep poorly.

Here is a link that might be useful: Heirloom Vegetable Archive - Garlic FAQ

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 12:31AM
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Right, ok. I've been growing garlic successfully for many years now and thought I knew it all so I'm trying to get my head around this bit of information. I have posted a picture, to me it doesn't look like what your suggesting. But I'm human and have been known to be wrong on a few occasions :-)
Sadly your advice about them not storing well confirms my suspicions. There are 100 bulbs here, our years supply. How can I process and store them? I would rather do without than buy and eat Chinese garlic. And local grown garlic is sporadically available.

Thanks guys


    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 2:29AM
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Your crop does look a little far gone, but that may be good for storage purposes. Just cure them as usual and eat the worst ones first. Soon after curing, I pick out the inferior bulbs and dry the cloves, which can be ground into garlic powder if I run out the real thing.

What's odd in your photo is that the cloves are not splaying out like they would do if they were way past maturity. Last year I had one plant that turned into a strange green clump just as its companions were ready to harvest. I left it in the ground and it's come back as a clump that I'll dig and divide when the ground thaws. I have no idea what triggered it to grow this way.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 8:16AM
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hello Dan, the bulb in the foreground looks like a bulb that got left behind from the previous season and each clove has grown into another bulb, albeit small. Although it's really odd that the individual stalks have grown within a single pseudostem - would have expected each bulb to have it's own stalk without the vestige of a single outer bulb wrapper.
Had you grown garlic in the same bed previously?

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 2:45PM
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Dan, I had the exact thing happen to me this year with my St. Helens garlic. Similar signs also showed in my artichocks and hardnecks.But not to the same extreme.
I did notice that some of the St. Helens showed multiple stalks when first sprouted and others showed stalks emerging from the main stalk later on . I wish I had photos.
We did have a wetter fall season, I planted earlier than usual (late Sept.),and a wet and warmer and earlier spring than in the past few years. But mostly I belive that it was a poor choice of seed on my part. I planted many of the large outer cloves of the S.H. garlic and I belive that they contained multiple cloves inside a single wrapper.
My concern for you would be is will you have enough seed for next years crop?


    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 7:30PM
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Thanks for all, the feedback. Zgnmegan, no garlic has been grown in that bed before. And as far as saving the seed, not sure if I want to replant this lot again. Might start with fresh seed next winter.
I'm having big problems all over the garden and I heavily suspect I have a high ph soil problem caused by watering with bore water. I'm just about to do a ph test as tomatoes etc are showing clear signs of iron deficiency. Wondering if this could of been the cause?

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 7:41PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

If you examine your harvest closely, you should notice that the ones with more green leaves have their bulbs in tact. And the browned ones are split.
As Zeedman explained , you harvest garlic based on its condition , not by the calendar.

But OTOH, if you are not selling them, they are all good. Just use the split ones first and store better ones for the future

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 9:50PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

"There are 100 bulbs here, our years supply. How can I process and store them? I would rather do without than buy and eat Chinese garlic."

My sentiments exactly. After years of organic home-grown garlic, the idea of resorting to store bought garlic is repugnant.

That looks like some nice garlic, with good sized cloves. My best recommendation would be to dehydrate the majority. I've tried peeling & freezing the cloves, and that works OK for short term... but IMO, too much of the flavor is lost. Dehydration preserves much of the flavor, for a very long storage period.

After I've sorted my garlic crop for the best planting stock, I give some away (to plenty of family & friends), keep a little for fresh eating, then dehydrate the rest. After peeling, DW & I slice the cloves for drying. Narrow cloves are split in half lengthwise, fatter cloves are cut across into several slices. With 100-200 bulbs depending upon the year, this usually takes a day or two... but fortunately this is done well after the frost, when there are few remaining garden tasks.

When dehydrated, the slices become hard garlic "chips" that store exceptionally well in zip lock plastic freezer bags, even at room temperature. These chips will keep their shape if added whole to soups or other cooked dishes, and are easy to grind up for fresh garlic powder when needed. If you like garlic that cooks down into a sauce, though, you might want to freeze a little for that purpose.

I share Zqnmegan's suspicions about the possibility that some of the larger cloves (especially those from the open clusters) are actually small under-developed bulbs. The year my garlic sprouted in the ground, I had some exceptionally huge bulbs, with very large outer cloves. I was elated, it looked like the best crop I'd ever had. But when I peeled those cloves, I discovered that many of them had already divided internally; what I took to be super-sized cloves was actually clusters of very small under-developed cloves. It will be interesting to see what some of your larger cloves look like when you peel them.

    Bookmark   January 8, 2014 at 11:23PM
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hello Dan, if you've not dehydrated your garlic before and would like to try zeedman's suggestion, pm your address to me and I'll post some garlic flakes and garlic powder I made last year for you to sample:) I also crush cloves that are too fiddly to peel, skin & all in my zyliss garlic press, mix with olive oil and freeze in an ice cube tray. When they're solid, turn them out into a ziplock bag and you have handy portions for cooking.
I grow my garlic at a community garden and got badly affected by rust so won't offer to share any of my garlic with you. However, I do have plenty of rounds grown from last years' bulbils that were grown at home in a polybox so should be "clean". There weren't any visible signs of disease in the leaves or bulbs anyway. let me know if you're interested.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2014 at 7:38AM
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Great feedback, thanks all. I have started eating the garlic already as I put garlic in just about everything :-). The outer cloves look and taste just like normal cloves. Regarding harvest I have always harvested when the top falls over, is this not correct?

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 3:51PM
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I think it has to do with the species of garlic along with your climate allowing you to get those. I really don't see a problem with that since those cloves appear to be very large and easy to peal.

I don't think that really happens much when you are dealing with hardneck garlics.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2014 at 8:56PM
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Hello Dan
I've harvested most of my artichoke garlic at the weekend and like zeedman, have found that some of the bigger bulbs with large outer cloves (up to 10g) when peeled, turned out to be 4 individual cloves. First time that I've noticed this in the four years I've been growing garlic:)

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 6:02PM
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I don't know how to load multiple photos in the same post so here's the same bulb before I peeled the large outer clove - can just see the ridges of the the multiple cloves through the skin

    Bookmark   January 13, 2014 at 9:05PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Nice photos, Zqnmegan. That was how mine looked in the one year I mentioned. It wouldn't have been so bad, if the skins had not already formed on the baby cloves... I peeled them, and it was a real pain. If it ever happens again, I'll just dehydrate those tiny cloves as is - I figure a quick whirl in the food processor should knock the skins loose from the dry cloves, after which I can winnow them out easily.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2014 at 4:42PM
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Hey guys,

Sorry for lack of reply, back to work meant back to having little time to do much else. Megan your garlic looks similar to what I have except mine didn't grow the skin around it all! Also just had a package arrive today, wondered who was sending me an iPhone 5! Hahaha thank you so much for the garlic and apple. Truly an awesome thing to do for a stranger :-).
Will use some of them flakes tonight and see how it goes, interesting there isno aroma wwhen you open the jar. I presume once it rehydrated the smell gets unlocked?

    Bookmark   January 19, 2014 at 6:52PM
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Even the lady at the post office counter commented - I'm not sure she believed me when I told her what the contents were:) If you haven't already, try eating one of the flakes, the flavour is definitely not diminished by dehydrating!

    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 1:08AM
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Funny story actually, my wife got home and I showed her the package. I saw her open the sliced garlic and I looked away. Then she must have put a slice of apple in her mouth and said "oh that's yum, have you tried these?" so I popped a garlic slice in my mouth thinking that was what she was talking about! Yes I love garlic but 5 seconds into it my wife cracked up and told me she was talking about the apple! Anyway it definitely has a strong garlic flavour! Lovely. Garlic breath.. Yeah :-)

    Bookmark   January 20, 2014 at 1:26AM
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