Garlic Vernalization Question

james(9a/b)September 13, 2010

NW Pasco County. Organic intensive raised beds. Climate data for Brooksville at the "Weatherbase" site are representative.

Winter09Summer 10 was my first experience growing garlic. Generic grocerystore, which I kept in the fridge for a couple of months before setting in Dec.

This year, hoping for a little more flavor, am trying "Inchelium Red" which is purported to do well in the Gulf Coast states. The sets arrived in first week of Sept. and currently are in fridge at 35°(F), where theyll remain until, at least, December. Although, in December, overnight lows may get into 40smid 30s, duration is in hours (sometimes "hour") and daytime highs are often in the 70s. As a rule, we dont get any successive "cold" days until Jan and Feb. Of course, by then the garlic is growing apace but will not need protection.

My question is: After a couple of months induced vernalization, will the onagain, offagain nature of what passes for Winter down here have any (significant) negative effect on bulb size and/or clove development? I am toying with the idea of waiting until midJan, or thereabouts, to set the garlic, at the risk of pushing harvest forward into our rainy season. Is there any point to doing so? Is it counter-productive? Does anyone know?

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This isn't required if you grow the correct types of garlic for your conditions. I'm also in 9B and garlic grows fine here, particularly artichoke, asiatic and turbin garlics. I have found that refrigeration helps porcelain and purple-stripe garlic to be more vigorous and nearly doubles yields for garlic that isn't adapted to my climate.

You are also planting at the wrong time. Garlic here is planted in Oct (just like daffodils!), and emerges and grows all winter. My garlic is a foot tall in Dec. Artichoke, asiatic and turbin garlic will emerge soon after planting, without vernalization. Porcelain and purple-stripe emerge later, and with low vigor. I suspect the more 'northern' types emerge tenatively until they are triggered to think 'spring' has arrived, at which point they grow fast. Vernalizing these types causes them to emerge sooner and more vigorously.

Try to get types that work well in your climate (inchentilum should work great), and plant them next month and you should have great results. I don't think vernalization can hurt, so go for it if you've got space in the fridge, however you will get different results with different garlics. Maybe try vernalizing half and see which types benefit from that treatment.

    Bookmark   September 13, 2010 at 2:26PM
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Alas, CA "Mediterranean" 9b is not FL near-tropical 9b except for frost dates. A peculiarity of USDA's methods but it's what we have.

At any rate, the first year's garlic crop, planted in November (October is still far too hot), was dismal. This year's (fall 2011) was considerably better. Inchelium red, a softneck artichoke that does well in mild winters. For it, vernalization seems to be an absolute requirement. Room temperature storage produced no heads, just like a "green" onion; one month at 35 degrees (F) produced small heads with no cloves; two months produced decent garlic. Planting dates for all three samples were the same, of course. In future, I shall keep Inchelium red "seed" cloves in the 'fridge for at least two months because it seems to need the winter-spring transition.

This year, in addition to the "Inchelium red", have added "Texas Rose" a somewhat rare artichoke variety that (anecdotally) made its way into central Texas from Mexico, is claimed to be well suited to warm winter climates and to need little to no vernalization. Of course, I don't believe that, so there'll be some further tesing going on in the Land of Liquid Sunshine....

    Bookmark   November 9, 2012 at 5:10PM
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hamiltongardener(CAN 6a)

I think garlic is pretty forgiving.

I'm in Canada, zone 5 or 6, and I always plant my garlic after Halloween. I just planted today.

Sometimes we get a brutally cold, hard freeze on bare ground, sometimes a blanket of insulating snow, and last year winter skipped us altogether. Never had a problem with the garlic... we grow both hardneck and softneck varieties.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 3:45PM
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I think you are on the right track, treating your seed garlic like prechilled tulip bulbs. I would get them out in early Dec so they will have the max in terms of cool weather. When taking care of my mother's yard on the gulf coast, I had great success chilling bulbs for 6 weeks before planting in Dec.

I-Red is a good choice, but as noted here the turbans and asiatics may be better because they start growing fast, keep growing through winter, and finish before the weather gets horribly hot.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 8:58AM
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Thanks for the interest, y'all. This is a long one so the impatient might want just to skip to "a plan".

I garden in raised beds using what TMEN used to call "'French' intensive" methods before the respective Ruth Stout and Mel Bartholomew fads hit. I do not mulch because in this climate it only aggravates molds and fungi while providing a haven for everpresent insects; instead, relying on "shoulder to shoulder" spacing to shade out "weeds" and to maintain the microclimate. 100% low volume drip irrigation and rarely "top water". For those who might live north of Ocala, FL, believe me we simply do not have winter as you know it and garlic cultivation is not widespread. Last night's low was 52 (all temps Farenheit) and temp was 82 by 2PM today (11 Nov). I don't expect freezing temperatures until late December or early January and durations are measured in hours. It has snowed once in my sixty-mumble years and the ground never freezes. I am far enough south that most fall-planted bulbs (tulips,for example) must spend some time in refrigration in order to be successful. Typically, heads form when summer temperatures arrive in late May or early June which, at least, gets it in before the summer rains start in July. Last fall's garlic went in on 17 November and had 100% sprouted by 21 November and then never broke it's stride; required shading against sun scald by April.

Well, this year, I purchased "seed" garlic from Texas, hoping to receive garlic that is already adapted to a similar USDA zone and should take fewer generations to adapt to peninsular Florida's climate. Also, that grower typically harvests in May-June so the expectation was of receiving the garlic early enough to give it adequate time in the 'fridge while waiting for weather to cool enough for planting, which should be real soon now. Unfortunately, a total crop failure, attributed to a too warm, too wet Texas winter, delayed shipment so that I just received the garlic this weekend.

Along with the "I. red", with which I'm familiar, there is "Red Toch", which I ordered but did not expect to receive, and a fair quantity of "Texas Rose", a sort of apologetic bonus, I suppose. The latter two varieties are reputed to to be well suited to warm winters. Although both do quite well in the central Texas winters, no one seems to know the actual duration of chilling required for vernalization to occur or whether they truly even need it.

At any rate, I have a plan:

Inchelium: Chill at 40 for approximately 6 weeks, plant in December and (due to late planting) expect small heads in May or June;

Red Toch: Plant half as soon as weather cools a bit and treat remainder as above;

Texas Rose: Same as Red Toch.

Oh! Almost forgot: A correspondent in central MI gifted me with a small quantity of an unidentified hardneck variety that has been in the 'fridge since early September and which also shall be planted when weather cools a bit.

I'm beginning to catch on to why more people don't grow garlic in west-central Florida, LOL! My aim is eventually to find a short season, short day, variety that, with minimal chilling requirement, is dependable in peninsular Florida's warm, always humid, climate. Assuming eventual success, then replanting my own stock ought eventually to produce a strain that is suited to short days and early onset of hot weather, even if it does need time in the 'fridge. Well, that's the hope.

At the very least, the delayed planting leaves more time to work more compost into the beds and surely that's a good thing....

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 1:04AM
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gemini_jim(7 MD)

You should look into some of the creole varieties. They are well adapted to warm winters and short-day conditions.

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 11:50AM
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