hardneck vs softneck

TJG911(z5b CT)May 21, 2007

Well we all know that hardnecks are the variety to grow up north but you can also grow softnecks, so I have heard. So I planted both types last October. Here's an observation about the plants.

There is a VAST difference in the two types of plants! I planted 3-5 different varieties of hardneck that were bought from a local organic farmer. I planted a softneck of unknown variety from the grocery store and I used very large cloves rivaling all the hardneck cloves in size. My point is the softneck cloves were big not puny cloves. All were planted around 10/10, 4" deep, 6" on center and I have a detailed map for identifying the hardnecks at harvest. The bed was amended with blood meal, bone meal and compost, mulched with 6-7" of shredded leaves (when the ground froze about 12/5) and the mulch was reduced to 1" of leaves in late March. Neither variety has received any more or less treatment.

The hardneck plants are easily 2 feet tall perhaps even 30 inches tall. The leaves are bright green, broad and very healthy looking.

The softnecks are about 12-14 inches tall. The leaves are greenish yellowish, narrower and somewhat twisted or curled. The softnecks do not look healthy.

Most all the softneck cloves sprouted and grew in the fall being about 4-5" tall before the ground froze very late around December 5th while only a few of the hardnecks grew. I was really worried that the lack of sprouting by the hardnecks was a sign they were not going to grow come spring but that obviously is not the case. The ratio of hardneck to softneck cloves planted was 10:1 and I'd say 100% of the hardnecks grew while 85-90% of the softnecks grew.

Obviously I have no idea how either will yield come July but based upon the looks of the plants I'd say growing softnecks is a waste of time. Perhaps if I grew these softnecks for a few years they'd acclimate and I think they'd change to a hardneck if I remember correctly. If that is correct why not just grow a hardneck initially? I wanted to see how the softnecks would do and store but right now they look pathetic!


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Hi Tom,

My garlic plantings here in NJ were almost identical to yours: 3 varieties of hardnecks from local farmers and two varieties of softnecks, largest cloves planted with 6" spacing in October and covered with a chopped leaf mulch. All 200 plants emerged and grew about 6-8" above the mulch before going dormant for the winter. Only difference is I used 10-10-10 fertilizer combined with a couple of inches of compost instead of all organic.

Come Spring the store bought softnecks actually died (never had that happen before!), but the remaining softnecks (Inchelium Red) are all standing fine.

Today all of the plants, hardneck and softneck, look great and equal, standing about 30" tall with thick stems. The only difference is the Incheliums are a slightly paler green than the hardnecks.

I think the store bought softneck varieties may be highly variable with results depending on the variety, fertilizers, pesticides etc. used as they were growing. Also the store bought types are generally not local and may have come from radically different climates such as China. The softneck Inchelium Red I planted came from local farmers and is doing very well, as did last year's crop. Hence the differences you are seeing may not just be a question of hardnecks versus softnecks, but the specific softnecks you planted.


    Bookmark   May 21, 2007 at 8:07PM
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TJG911(z5b CT)

hi tom,

i was under the impression that all commerically purchased softneck garlic grown in this country came from gilroy california. if not all, certainly 90% must come from gilroy. gilroy is sure different than new england.

seems now some garlic is being grown in china. china is about 33% larger than the usa and occupies the same basic latitude. china has deserts, frozen wastes, temperate and tropical climates. i have no idea where they grow garlic but it is softneck so i'd assume it is in a more southern latitude than we are in at approx 40 degrees North.

i'd hoped the softneck would do well since they have such a long storage ability. 90% of the hardneck is music because they can store for so long 5-6 months but some people report 9 months in storage. if the softneck bulbs are a bust i will not grow them again and just try different hardnecks.

hard to believe that harvest is about 60 days away.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2007 at 11:54AM
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Hi Tom,

Use to be that most supermarket softnecks were California Early or California Late, but I understand that a lot is now coming from China (like everything else!). I used to plant only supermarket garlic and never had a problem, until this year. This time the planting heads were unusually large and white and I suspected they might be Chinese. They grew fine in the fall, but 58 of the 60 I planted did not survive the winter. My Inchelium softneck, on the other hand, are tall and thick. No more anonymous supermarket varieties for me!


    Bookmark   May 25, 2007 at 3:57PM
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