Planting Garlic and Onions

roseofsharon_on(z6 ON Can)November 22, 2004

This forum doesn't seem to have any FAQs so I am asking some very basic questions.

Can garlic from the grocery store be planted in the garden?

Onions to be planted are offered as either seeds or as packages of small bulbs. What are the differences or advantages of these two types of propagation?


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roseofsharon_on(z6 ON Can)

Peter, thank you for your helpful reply. Your website is very well organized and informative. I'll try both methods. It seems nothing short of miraculous that such tiny seeds can produce a whole onion in one growing season.


    Bookmark   November 23, 2004 at 1:58PM
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Peter60(Yorkshire UK)

I didn't mention an early start, Sharon. Some growers will sow in January so it is a heated glasshouse situation. I have no experience of the grow lights and grow rooms that many people use for winter germinaion of a variety of seed.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2004 at 6:05PM
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gardenlad(6b KY)

There are several problems with sets.

1. Because they already are onions, with a year's growth behind them, they have a greater tendency to bolt early. The larger the set the more likely this is, so if you must plant sets, put the smallest ones---those no bigger than a dime---in the ground.

2. There is limited choice. Most of the time you have the three commonly available generic ones and that's all---although you can get named varieties from some sources.

3. Most generic sets are long-daylength types. This is fine for you, Sharon. But in mid- and short-daylength areas sets do not do well.

4. Set grown onions, as a rule, do not keep as well as others, even when the variety is the same.

So, taken as a whole, you should prioritize onions thus: seeds, plants, and sets as a last resort.

As to store bought garlic. The short answer is, yes it can be grown. The longer question is: why would you want to. About 99% of store-bought garlic is California White; wither California Early or California Late. For you that presents two problems. First, it's a softneck, and softnecks tend to do better in the south, whereas hardnecks do better in the north. Second, California White is arguably the worst garlic there is. It is sharp, hot, and often bitter.

If you're going to take the time and effort to grow garlic, you really should consider other varieties.

Finally, let me recommend that you peruse the back pages of this forum, and read some of the threads that deal with both these subjects in greater detail.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2004 at 6:58PM
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coho(z8/9 N. Calif)

Please, Buy or beg one or two of the garlic varities that are listed in these posts. Perhaps Garlic Lady's list. California White is easy to grow but does not have the flavor that others have. And most of them are easy to grow also. My wife is always disappointed when our home grown supply does not last until the new crop comes on.
I started with California white and an un-named purple stripe. CW is long gone and I now have several purple stripes among others.

    Bookmark   November 30, 2004 at 11:26PM
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roseofsharon_on(z6 ON Can)

Thanks GardenLad and Ken. I did notice that there is a larger selection with seeds. We have grocery stores that stock garlic other than the standard white garlic. I can't beg any garlic from the posts here because I am in Canada. Only seeds can be sent across the border.


    Bookmark   December 2, 2004 at 2:05PM
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paquebot(Z-4b WI)

Sharon, if you get downtown into Toronto, there should be some ethnic food shops which sell something other than the generic imported California or Chinese garlic. Garlic is a part of the cuisine of virtually every nationality around the Mediterranean so you could find some good stuff even in Lebanese, Syrian, Armenian, or Turkish shops. If there's a kosher store around, check there also. None may know the exact variety but it won't be the standard generic types.


    Bookmark   December 2, 2004 at 4:19PM
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gardenlad(6b KY)

Adding a little to Martin's post: Be sure and taste the garlic you intend to plant. Peel a clove and cut a slice out of it. Then pop that in your mouth.

Garlic taste is highly variable, and can be different year to year. However, this still gives you a fair idea of what that garlic will taste like when you grow it, and whether or not you really like it.

Also check out your store-bought carefully. If it doesn't like like the generic white (particularly if it's larger and off-colored) there's a good reason. More and more of Canadian garlic is being imported from South America, where they are growing varieties other than the California White. So you may luck out that way.

Again, perform the taste test. If you like the garlic in the store, it doesn't really matter much what it's called.

    Bookmark   December 3, 2004 at 6:33AM
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roseofsharon_on(z6 ON Can)

Thanks Martin. Fortunately Armenians and Iranians live in large numbers in my neighbourhood and have grocery stores. A great source for fresh dates, flat breads and rose water among other things. I'll check out their garlic stock this weekend.

GardenLad, if I find more than one kind of garlic how am I going to clear my palate between tastings?


    Bookmark   December 3, 2004 at 1:28PM
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roseofsharon_on(z6 ON Can)

My local ethnic market has garlic that is imported from India. It is white with occasional purple stripes. Is this other than the dreaded California White? Is it soft neck or hard neck?


    Bookmark   December 4, 2004 at 8:56PM
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paquebot(Z-4b WI)

California White is usually with pure white skins on both the bulb and cloves. Whatever you've found in the Indian shop should be something better. Quite possibly a softneck if imported from a warm climate. Most, but not all, hardnecks have a single layer of large cloves around a solid central stalk. Softnecks usually have multiple layers of cloves with the core comprised of 3 or 4 small and narrow pointed cloves. There are exceptions as some of the Asian types are listed as a softneck but do have a solid woody core. Regardless, you've now found some to plant without resorting the supermarket garlic.


    Bookmark   December 4, 2004 at 10:52PM
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gardenlad(6b KY)

Clearing the palette? Good question, Sharon. Unfortunately, it's not one I have a good answer for.

Those of us who eat lots of raw garlic can tell differences, even one after another. Among the things you'll notice: how "garlicy" it tastes overall; amount of heat; where in the mouth the heat hits; whether the heat hits all at once, or if there is a delay; how long-lasting are the garlic taste and heat; and a few others.

My guess is that the Indian garlic is a hardneck, part of the purple striped group. But check out the visual clues Martin suggests.

When you grow it, you'll know soon enough, as hardnecks put out scapes and softnecks generally do not.

    Bookmark   December 5, 2004 at 7:59AM
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Since California White is so disliked, howcome it's the one that's the easiest to find? Why wouldn't a better tasting garlic be the one that everyone is buying and selling in stores?

    Bookmark   June 11, 2005 at 4:01PM
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gardenlad(6b KY)

That's because until the recent introduction of South American crops, the commercial garlic industry was dominated by the folks in Gilmore, California.

Year's back they decided they'd focus on one variety, and all their contract growers would have to grow that variety. They use it for everything, both fresh and processed garlic.

Why the California White? Two reasons: first off, it is easy to grow. And second, there are two crops,a California Early and a California Late, which keep them going all year.

As to concerns about taste: When have giant agri-businesses _every_ worried about that. What they want are varieites that fit the food production and distribution system. Flavor always runs a poor second to those criterium.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2005 at 5:21PM
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