Elephant garlic

OldDutch(4)April 22, 2014

All my fall planted garlics and alliums have shown up and are growing well, except the elephant garlics. There sure is a difference in growth habits, too.

Do the elephants emerge later or am I just too far north here in Minneapolis for them to be hardy? Nothing got mulched last fall, but we had a pretty deep and consistent snow cover all winter.

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I used to grow elephant garlic until I found out they have no spice at all, and do remember that they will sprout a lot later than regular garlic sprouts.

The ground is probably still frozen in your area due to the abnormally cold winter we have had so it's still too early to expect to see much. In upstate NY, I am still finding that part of my compost piles is still frozen which means spring has not really started yet.

    Bookmark   April 22, 2014 at 11:24PM
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The ground is thawed around here (has been for about a week and a half) and the last of the local lakes are now completely thawed and ice free. Decades ago when I grew extensive perennials I expected frost out in the middle of April. This year it was about that. There are still some of the huge snow piles that are not completely gone, but spring is far enough along that tree blossom has produced enough pollen to be miserable for those with that kind of allergy.

Most of my garlics are now between about 6" tall and a foot tall already. Also a nice stand of the one set of bulbils I planted and the potato onions are at last putting in a very nice stand. I lost everything last spring and had to replant, part of which did quite well and three of the varieties are the parents of part of this year's stand.

The only thing still missing this year is the elephant garlic. I will give it a bit longer. Then it will be back to the drawing board.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 1:56AM
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theforgottenone1013(MI zone 5b/6a)

It takes elephant garlic longer to sprout. Patience. :) Once they sprout they will soon catch up to the regular garlic.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 11:51AM
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Mark(Oregon, Zone 8)

My elephant garlic is always earlier to break ground than most of my regular garlic varieties. You could try carefully digging down to a clove and see if it's sprouting or if something else is going on.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 1:35PM
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I went and checked my notes from past years. In 2011 I didn,t plant my elephant garlic until Nov.5,2011. It did not sprout until Feb.21 2012. About 3.5 months later.
this year I planted Oct. 3 2013 and it sprouted Nov.11 2013. about 6 weeks.
So hang in there. It will most likely show up in a week or so.


    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 6:55PM
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It snowed again today, and stuck in the 30s so winter is not over yet around the great lakes. I'm finding that most plants are still dormant, and since the soil temperature is still barely above freezing spring may still be several weeks away, especially with the frozen lakes.

They should emerge by late May.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 10:19PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

I would second Madroneb's advice, to carefully dig around one clove (or try to find it). Elephant Garlic had a pretty high winter kill for me here, I was just barely replacing what I had planted - and my winters are not as cold as most of Minnesota. After several years of no increase, I quit growing it.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 10:35PM
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I think digging up a bulb or two will be a good idea, if the elephants have not put in an appearance by the beginning of next week. That is a pretty good suggestion. I am beginning to wonder if elephant garlic might not be better held over for a spring planting around here. It stores well enough to hold over winter to make that possible. I really doubt that all of this kind of allium needs to be fall planted.

    Bookmark   April 23, 2014 at 10:53PM
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did your elephant garlic show up?

    Bookmark   May 7, 2014 at 7:09PM
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No elephant garlic has emerged yet, but I dug up a clove that is all swelled up and had a set of roots, although still not even a start of a green shoot. There should have been 9 of them, but once I found this first one, I replanted it and quit digging. Unfortunately I hit it with the digging fork; so I probably should have harvested it and cooked with it, but I put it back so we shall see, if any others show up. I also planted 4 more this spring to see if spring planting would work better for them around here. There are some lilies that will lay in the ground for a year before sprouting. Has elephant garlic done that to anybody?

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 12:52PM
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Roots are a good thing. They should emerge in a couple of weeks. I've never spring planted so I can't offer any opinion on those.
Here in PNW Elephant Garlic is planted at the end of Sept. whereas garlic is planted mid Oct. til end of Nov. Though I have planted in Dec and Jan. with good results.
I believe that the EG needs the warmer soil to start it's root system. JMHO..

    Bookmark   May 8, 2014 at 3:45PM
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There is one of the missing bits that comes together a bit more. I know that some other fall bulbs have their own planting times, such as narcissi and crocus as early as possible but tulips can go in as late as you can still dig the holes. I planted my elephants late along with the regular garlics and the potato onions. First I will see how well this year's spring planting of elephants does and if last fall's late sets will do anything, then I will decide whether to set the elephants real early next fall or just skip em. I am also going to see what I get from spring planted garlic bulbils and if I can grow my own Copra onion sets for next year from seed. My parents grew all their onions from sets for as long as I can remember. The key being to use only the smallest sets you can get to avoid the bolters. Like growing the rounds from bulbils you plant thick to keep down the size or the they get too mature, and to a certain extent you harvest to size in both types if you can.

I finally see my lilies showing shoots now (Casa Blanca, lancifolia, and henryi); so I will wait a bit longer on the elephants, too. They are a new plant for me so I do not really know what to expect yet.

    Bookmark   May 9, 2014 at 7:20AM
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You really don't need elephant garlic to get enormous sized bulbs. If you use something standard like german red, start with large cloves, and give them ideal conditions, you can still get garlic leaves in the 1 1/2 inch diameter size, and have baseball sized garlics given that the scapes were removed. Real garlics have far more spice than elephant garlic which is actually a leek. They can grow leaves up to 4ft tall, and if you let them scape, those scapes can reach 7ft.

This is just normal garlic. It's just getting royal treatment. My hand which is around 8 inches from wrist to middle fingertip is not extra small either.

I just fertilize with horse manure, and water with an alfalfa tea mix on most of my plants so there are no tricks.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 1:03AM
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Large cloves is why I like Music and Siberian. The cloves size on Japanese I planted last fall were also huge. I am trying to grow elephant garlic because I want to know if I can do so dependably. I am about ready to give up on my peach experiment. No flowers at all this spring making three straight years of failed crop. Some things are just not meant to be. Between hard cold and cottontails, my backyard is not what one might call peach friendly this far north. So I find it out the hard way. Now I know. i am not doing so well on the elephants either.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2014 at 6:24PM
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It's my first year trying to grow elephant garlic. I tried planting early spring but only 2 came up so far out of 10 cloves... I carefully dug out a couple of cloves and they have root growth but nothing else. They just sit. I think they're just slow... Hopefully you get some for seed stock that will come up regularly in your zone.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 2:45AM
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I'd plant them early enough in the fall so they get 6" to 8" tall, mulch well when it gets consistently freezing, and pull back the mulch gently once it warms up in the early spring, with daytime temperatures consistently above freezing. Elephant garlic has been very reliable and consistent for me. I grow other garlics, but the way I use it I prefer the big cloves.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2014 at 4:48PM
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The elephant garlic I planted last fall is still no show; so I am going to dig the bed out. I would not be surprised to find the bulbs just laying there either, perhaps even rooted but not sprouting. I had that happen to some Casa Blanca lilies that never put in a showing last year from when I planted them in the spring, but this year came up from under a tilled patch where I had put garlic. Martagon and some other bulbs are notorious for laying there a year, too, before putting in a showing.

Sounds to me like the best results others have is a very early fall planting. I seem to be missing some step in there somewhere.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 5:57AM
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I don't know if they have to acclimate to new zones or what. I hear they grow very easy for some people, even in my area. So, my bulbs might have been from some other growing zone. I had 1 more sprout, then it stalled at a quarter inch. I'm, too, thinking early fall is probably the best time to plant. I just left the elephant garlic and planted leftover shallot bulbs around them to make use of the space.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 2:44PM
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Spring planted elephants are starting to peak through now that the temp has warmed up. So I dug the 9 bulbs I planted last fall, and found them all, 2 rotted (I know I hit one with the potato fork earlier and maybe both of them; so at least 8 of the 9 made it through the winter), 2 I cut with the trowel this afternoon, but they like the other 5 were pretty well rooted but NO sprout. They were easily 3 or 4 inches deeper than I planted them and seem to have actually grown in size as well. I replanted the 5 good ones shallower and so in warmer soil. The spring planted ones that are sprouting and the fall planted ones that don't seem to have broken dormancy came from the same source (admittedly a supermarket). I think that next year my elephants will be spring planted.

BTW I dug my Triumph tulips this afternoon and they are on the drying rack as we speak. I planted them and the rest of my garlic cloves with the tops just under the surface and they all seemed to do just fine with the nice deep snow cover we had last winter. It looks like the tulips have multiplied 2 or 3 times and have many "bulbil" offsets. They had a nice set of blooms, too, even if planted very shallow. What both tulips and garlic have done however was to dig themselves down maybe three or four inches deeper than I planted them! I know I didn't plant them as deep as the were this afternoon when I dug them (I dug some gallions, too, - same thing)

My initial issue was where were my elephant garlics? Right where I planted them but they still haven't broken dormancy. I think that next year my elephants will be spring planted.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 6:04PM
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One final thought here.

I have one patch of garlic from last fall's planting that is huge. Stems are as much as a full inch to inch and a half across and the leaves unroll up way past waist high, both big and broad. So maybe those were smaller bulbs of my own elephants from last year, if so they were harvested way early and so may not have sized up all that well. They did cure well, cloved out, and produced very robust plants this spring from last fall's planting, and they just keep getting bigger. They have already made my Music and Siberian look like pygmies, as they start to show scapes!

I have been known to mix up labels before.

Those I planted as elephants last fall were grocery store bulbs and may have been treated against sprouting, while my own were not of course. The spring planted grocery store elephants may simply have had more time to air out enabling them to finally sprout, but they are just now starting to come up.

I guess we shall see what the big ones do as summer proceeds. If those are my elephants I would think they would keep growing past when regular garlic gets harvested as one signal. They have a nice rich bed; so size should also be there.

I am pretty new at this type of gardening. So there will be more such lessons as this may turn out to be.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 10:58AM
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Well if that's the case, you probably have some that are already being acclimated to your area. Mine originated from two locations in which I planted early spring, seed cloves bought from Arizona, and a store bought bulb from mid California (Gilroy). The few that came up were store bought.. The ones from Arizona are just sitting, rooted to the ground.

I've read that you are supposed to wait until the soil is dry before watering but leaf growth seems to stall when I do that with my elephant garlic. The soil looks too damp for my comfort but my experiences with regular garlic shows that some cultivars like more water than others.

Are your elephant garlic like that? It's my first time growing them so I don't know their growth habits and I'm trying to get a feel for what to expect from them.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2014 at 4:28PM
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