(too) small bulb garlic and onion

rokoszJune 28, 2010

My (clove) garlic and (set) onions (unknown species both, farmer's market and orange-smock store purchase respectively) are both undesirably _too_ small.

I understand different species have different size potentials.

The beds are raised/retained high-compost, (kitchen and yard) & native (1:1) or so.

I planted the garlic cloves last fall, mulched and was ecstatic when every clove poked out in March. The stalks are 2feet plus now, scapes green and healthy.

onions composted, garlic not with both getting occasional (1/month) miracle-gro solution. I've kept the garlic dry, watering only somewhat because this spring has been below average rf. Light may be an issue: direct sunlight doesn't begin until hi-noon and lasting at most 6 1/2 hours.

Can anyone point me at a concise link of garlic/onion actions/timings?

(eg don't water until the scapes bend etc.)

Yesterday I trimmed all the scapes that had bent (mid-length) and dug down to see what size an example bulb is. It wasn't any bigger than a plant I pulled over a month ago (bigger than a quarter in dia and Should garlic bulbs be exposed (like onions bulbs).?

If I leave these blubs in the ground for another winter -- will this improve the size next year -- or are garlics, generally, a 10month crop?


The set onions were sorted for size and separately planted rows 13" apart, plants 6-8" apart in mid-March or so. All the plants are healthy above ground and currenlty falling over. I pulled one of the "small set" bulbs -- and its not much more than a store bought green onion. The "large set" green onions are pretty much the same. (Kind of like those small white onions you find in jars at the store).

Thes bulbs were planted (too deep apparently) (the tops of the bulbs are a minimum of 2" below gl. I've scraped away all the soil to expose the (at this point) just the tops of the bulbs. Is that a good thing? Will too deep affect "bulbing up"?

As a kid I planted onions, don't recall them being "above ground" at all and got pretty typical grocery store sized onions.

Thanks for any help.

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How do the lower leaves look on your garlic? A couple weeks after the scapes go up, you'll see the leaves on your garlic turn brown. The bulbs will start expanding and the lower leaves die one by one from lowest to highest. The difficult part is when to harvest as no one "exactly" agrees on this. I've heard anything from 3 leaves to 5 leaves. Once the third leaf starts dieing off, I'll start pulling a test clove every few days to see if they've bulbed up to where I want them. I wouldn't let it go more than 5 leaves dead though. One thing for certain, if you are going to err on earlier or later, it's better to pull them earlier than later. If you wait too long, the wrapper around the clove will be gone and you'll end up with garlic that won't store. If you pull too soon, the cloves will just be smaller.

After you've pulled them, keep the largest heads for replanting in the fall and use the smallest for cooking.

Don't expose the heads and don't leave them for overwintering. Just have a little more patience. They do take their time. I just pulled my first test of Music garlic 3 days ago and it was quite small. I'm sure it'll only be a week or so more.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 1:59PM
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Light is probably an issue for you since you don't have sun until noon. Garlic also puts on size in the bulb at the last minute, so until harvest time you shouldn't worry about them seeming small.

My onions grow at the top of the soil when planted from seed, with the top of the bulb exposed. You may have planted the sets too deep.

Garlic is totally different and likes it's bulb to be about 3" deep.

Onion sets are often a problem, usually they do not specify the type and they may be available at the wrong time. Your best bet for foolproof onions would be to order transplants, then you know exactly what type you are getting and they usually ship when they are supposed to be planted out.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 4:08PM
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Thanks for the responses!. The garlic scapes are only just beginning to die off at the bottom. I'll keep them buried. Should they get more (or less?) water as the scapes die off?

the onions i'll keep uncovered. I just pulled a few rather than go to the grosto. Glorified scallions with a couple that (in time?) could've been "normal". I'll leave the others.

Any thoughts on leftover unplanted sets from this spring? Now that I've got more room is it reasonable to shoot for a second attempt errr crop?

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 5:55PM
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you should cut off watering towards the end. Up north, if they're well mulched, you probably don't even really need to water them much, if at all through the season.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 6:14PM
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I have always read that you are supposed to cut off the garlic scapes in order to focus all the plants energy on growing the bulb, instead of growing bulbils. Could that be one of the issues contributing to the small bulb size? This is only my second year growing garlic so I'm by no means an expert. But I always cut off my garlic scapes.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 11:31AM
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Ahhh. Forgot about that. At least 3 weeks ago I cut one, nice strong flower stem off each of teh plants.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 6:02PM
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