results of spring planted garlic

rxkeith(z5 MI)November 9, 2009

as a result of moving last fall and not being able to plant garlic due rainy season, i planted 200 cloves in a raised bed i made from 2x10x12 boards. i filled the bed with about a 50:50 mix of topsoil, and horse manure. cloves were planted in may 5 inches apart in rows 6 inches apart. i had mixed results. early growth was impressive. some varieties however never bulbed up. these were mostly hard necks. instead of forming a bulb, what i have is something looking like a green onion. i had very few scapes form which seemed odd. foilage also stayed pretty green even late in the year. when i finally did dig them, some of the plants had sprouting cloves growing into the stem. some artichoke types bulbed up or partially bulbed up, but the cloves are still fused together making it impossible to separate and replant. i planted a couple of the fused bulbs, hoping i can separate cloves next year.

i am wondering if i can replant any of the hard necks that did not bulb up. think they will bulb up next year.

comments, suggestions, shared experiences appreciated

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Hi Keith,

Sorry if this is kinda wordy.

From what I have read and in my own experience Garlic needs a long cool ( or cold for some cultivars ) season to form it's roots before it starts to grow above ground leaves.
It needs large leaves and well established roots to form individual cloves instead of just the onion-like bulb. When planted in the spring the garlic is pretty easy to dig because the roots are like a ( very healthy ) green onion, but, when Fall planted I find the roots are deep and thick some are alomst a foot long and require a shovel and deep digging to harvest. This is why for the garlic bulb to seperate into cloves it needs to be planted in fall. In spring when the plant gets going ( by mid March to early April they should be several inches tall ) you can spray liquid ( N ) fertilizer on the leaves every 2 weeks or so until May, this will make the leaves grow big. You stop spraying Nitrogen ( I use fish emulsion + kelp ) in May so that the plant diverts energy into fattening up the cloves. Depending on the variety you are growing and what your weather is in June you will probably be harvesting sometime in July ( maybe late June )
Harvest the garlic when about half of your leaves have browned or you have 3 - 5 green leaves left.

Spring planted garlic usually will not seperate into cloves but instead forms the solid bulb like( a scallion/green onion ) you descibed. These are still good to eat but just don't resemble the garlic we are used to seeing, and yes you can plant them again now ( if the ground isn't frozen )and harvest next year. Generally you want to plant 4 - 6 weeks before the ground freezes solid in your area. I planted some in Mid October and some I will plant this week/weekend. I am in a similar zone to you and we had one night in the low 20s already but then a couple days in the 60s so our ground is not frozen yet ( That is usually early December for here )

A good ( great ) book is Growing Great Garlic it answers almost any question you will ever have about garlic, including it's history.

Good Luck

    Bookmark   November 9, 2009 at 8:49PM
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bloosquall(Wa 6)

RX, that is what happens when planted late in the spring. Separate any that did make cloves and plant them back. The rounds that didn't make cloves, plant those back also. They will do much better this time around.


    Bookmark   November 9, 2009 at 8:56PM
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namfon, what a great explanation. even though I've grown garlic for a long time I found your post extremely useful. I always get great growth but still end up with average sized bulbs. I will now stop adding the high nitrogen boost after May 1st.

    Bookmark   November 13, 2009 at 5:00AM
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still_kris(z17 NoCA)

Just wondering how deep those raised beds are? A foot seems a bit shallow to me.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2009 at 9:14AM
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rxkeith(z5 MI)

thanks for the replies, all

after 10 years of garlic success in the U.P. i didn't know what to expect for this season. in the past martin (paquebot) said spring planted garlic would do fine.
this was also the first time i had grown garlic in a raised bed. the bed is on sod with a layer of newspapers laid down before filling up the bed. 12 inches deep. i figured that would be deep enough. in addition to the fertilizer tips i'll need to pay more attention to watering. i planted some new cloves back. i also planted cloves harvested last year that were still in amazingly very good shape. so everything is represented.
i do have englunds book. unfortunately its about 500 miles away at the farm. i'm still a little leery planting in ground here until maybe next year. the soil here is clay based, and was very wet until about may. it was like walking in a bog, squish, squishing with each step. i am adding truck loads of leaves, and manure this fall and next spring. once i have the grass and weed situation under control i will plant the garlic in ground.


    Bookmark   November 18, 2009 at 7:32PM
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If you can spare some space you might try a cover crop or 2 before planting. Engeland recommends more, but even a spring
planting of spelt or oats, followed by a clover or buckwheat planting would really help the clay situation. If you turn under your cover crop a few weeks before planting your cloves, the cover crop residue should be pretty well digested. I did not used to feel I had enough space for covers but the benefits really seem worth it.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2009 at 6:13PM
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