Garlic problems

TreeCurits(5b)June 10, 2013

I'm not even sure where to begin... First of all, let me just say this has been my first year planting garlic, and I think I made some serious mistakes. I'm looking to see where I went wrong so that I may do everything correctly this year. After an epic failure, I am determined to get it right this year! I have been browsing this forum and others looking for answers but sometimes combing through the endless amounts of data on the subject is incredibly unwieldy.

I planted my garlic last year in early September. I planted two hardneck varieties, ajo rojo, and German red in raised beds and mulched with pine shavings and fallen leaves. Everything was coming up early, and getting really leafy and it was a couple months before the ground froze. Someone told me that I planted much too early, and to snip the plants down to the base. I did that and added more mulch. In the early spring only a quarter of the entire crop came up and at various times. So I have some large, more mature plants, and small plants with only 4 leaves. Also, I should note, since weather is always important, we had tons of late snow this year - blizzards well into March ( i'm sure a lot of you remember). So I guess my questions are, can someone give me some tips as to what happen? Did they rot? Is autumn growth ok? Do you mulch after you see growth? too wet? too cold? Ugh!

Thanks so much!

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Snipping the garlic off was probably the big mistake. Free advice is often worth just what you pay for it. I am in zone 6B, MA, and my October planted garlic always starts growing before the first frost and snow. They come up right through their six to eight inch mulch of straw (hay, if I can't get straw) and survive lots of snow and winter cold. It is a tough plant. They do not grow very much during these cold months but pick up again in the Spring and are quite robust plants before you know it. In about thirty years of growing garlic(also in raised beds) the only problems I have experienced dealt with late harvesting/storage issues. But that's another problem. Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 7:59AM
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I've never heard of cutting garlic at the base, and I suspect that is the root of your problem.

Early September is too early and will lead to excessive top growth before the ground freeze. Most New England farmers in zone 5 plant garlic around mid-October. In NJ and here in VA (both zone 7a) I plant garlic in the first half of November. The idea is to allow about five weeks of root growth before ground freeze, but little or no top growth above the mulch. Some top growth exposed to winter cold and snow is okay, even if the growth curls and appears to die, as new growth will start again in March.

I suggest a later start this year, and cover with about 3-4" of a loose mulch. Fertilize with a balanced fertilizer at the time of planting, and again with a higher nitrogen fertilizer in March, April, and early May, then stop. You want to encourage healthy top growth, which will then feed bulb development starting in June. Garlic also likes abundant sunshine.

I mulch at the time of planting to retain moisture and protect against excessive cold, and leave the mulch on all year to suppress weeds. Garlic laughs at cold and snow, so I doubt this was part of your problem.


    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 8:06AM
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Thanks! Okay, I'll start it much later and no more clipping!!


    Bookmark   June 11, 2013 at 9:39AM
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Just as a comparison for you, my farm is on the edge between zone 3b and 4a. It was my first year planting garlic as well but I waiting till mid October to plant (which was a couple weeks before frost). We still had snow on the ground till end of April but they sprouted well once it was gone.
My Music is almost ready to have their scapes cut and Susan Delafield is not too far behind. My Khabar, French Rocamboles, and German Red are quite a bit behind but I do see them producing scapes.
Good luck!!!

Oh and also I didn't mulch but they had great snow cover.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 5:11PM
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Thanks Mrs. Winter! I have no scapes :0(. they're alive but I think next year i'll do better.

    Bookmark   June 19, 2013 at 8:46PM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

Someone told me that I planted much too early, and to snip the plants down to the base

That has been the mistake.
Garlics are like winter wheat. They grow some green top and by that establish root system befor they go dormant. That is when the energy in the seed clove is spent. From there on(in the spring) the leaves working with the root system will run the engine, by photo synthesis and drawing nutrients from the soil.

    Bookmark   June 21, 2013 at 7:41AM
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