Garlic – observations from 2015 Harvest

Last year I lost most of my garlic crop to the severely cold winter. Also, I’m convinced that the garlic didn’t like the spot I’d chosen for it. The thing I hated the most was loosing a really great variety that my friend and reader Jack had sent to me.

With the severe cold again this winter, I thought maybe I’d loose my crop again. But all went well.

I planted the garlic on October 22 and 23rd of 2014. It put on about 4 to 5 inches of growth before the cold set in. The leaf tips never even turned brown with all the freezing temperatures.

In the spring the growth on all 4 varieties were great looking.


Garlic the first part of May 2015.

Losses Were Few

I lost 2 bulbs to voles and about 4 to what I think is fusarium basal rot. Every once in a while I’ll lose a dozen or so onions (out of 1500 onions) to this rot. I know it can be spread by contaminated transplants and sets, and I often wonder if that’s how it ended up in my garden.

This year, no onions have been effected, but I recognized it immediately on  4 garlics when they turned brown prematurely. And they came right up when I pulled, because there was no root and the decay had set into the bulb.

My garden is healthy, so I just keep an eye out for signs of this fungus and pull out the affected onions or garlic when or if they appear. Just to be on the safe side, I bag and trash the affected plants.

This “rot” is another reason I’m somewhat fanatical about rotating my onions.  I wish I could do a 5 year rotation, but a 3 year rotation is the best I can do and it seems to work.

Time to Harvest? – Soft Neck Garlic

Supposedly, soft neck garlic (the kind that stores the longest and doesn’t put out scapes) is ready for harvest when 1/2 the leaves turn brown.  You would think after 37 years of gardening that I could tell when that was.  Somehow, I never seem quite sure.

Anyway, this year, the tops fell over.  (I was a bit surprised since I don’t often have my garlic tops fall over.) I harvested and found that I probably should have dug them a few days earlier.  Several of the bulbs had separated (or “opened”) because of all the rain we’d had.  Those bulbs won’t cure or store.  I take those in to use right away.

Time to Harvest? – Hard Neck Garlic

It’s easy to tell when to harvest the hard neck garlic. (That’s the kind the doesn’t store as long and puts out scapes.) When the scapes stand straight up, it’s time to dig the bulb.

 The 4 Varieties I Grew for 2014/15

Music is a hard neck variety.  I’ve had good luck with it previously.  About 80% of the bulbs this year were not as large as they have been in the past, but still nice.

It’s a tall plant.  By the time the scape straightens it’s a good 3 1/2 feet or more.

Appalachian Red Hard Neck Garlic was new for me this year.  It was a bit smaller than Music. The plant is only about 2 to 2 1/2 feet tall when the scape straightens.

Italian Soft Neck produced the smallest bulbs.

California Soft Neck produced the largest bulbs.  I definitely will grow this variety again.

2015 garlic harvest

2015 garlic harvest – Left to Right: Italian Soft Neck, Music, Appalachian Red, California Early (I still have a few more Appalachian Reds to harvest.) (Happy to report that Bill was able to take this picture for me.  He can’t maneuver the garden yet, but his walker was fine on this flat ground.)

 Scapes on Hard Necks

I don’t usually cut my scapes.  The advantage of cutting would be to let the energy go towards making a larger bulb, rather than growing the scape.  If someone grew lots of garlic to sell, I can certainly see where it would be advantageous.  With my little bit of garlic, it’s just another job to do.

I do sometimes cut a few scapes for cooking. If you cut garlic scapes when they first start to appear and are young and tender they’re delicious in stir fries.  Once they get woody, they’re not to good.

Final Thoughts

As with most vegetables, garlic in the store is not at all like homegrown garlic.  When Bill and I have garlic from our garden, we use twice as much!

If you’re not growing garlic, why not give it a try this fall.

Related Posts:

Growing Garlic – Yours Big Enough For You?

Garlic – A Good Reason to Grow Your Own


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  • I did not know the reason behind that bulb splitting – given our wet spring, this makes sense! Harvested the elephant garlic last week, and the rest I will do tomorrow (have been waiting for the granddaughter to arrive for her “farm visit”)

  • Garlic chives is the only garlic i grow. This year, which is about it’s 10th. it looks different. It has always looked fairly delicate in the past but this time very coarse. Because it’s old or a weather thing? Coldest winter for years with -30f and very wet to dry and too warm to 26f to overly warm 80’s to wet again and might be approaching normals now. Tops also on the tough side. new growth seems normal. should I be removing more of the old stuff each year? By the way I don’t mean to shout with my use of capitals but since i left school “long ago” and no longer had to listen to teachers telling me how bad my writing was/is I have always printed in upper case. It seems I have unintentionally offended some with my caps. Sorry!

  • We LOVE garlic! We use it fresh daily. We really enjoyed growing it a couple years back. There is no comparison for the taste. You’ve inspired me to grow some for next year! Thanks, Theresa!

  • Hi Theresa,
    I’m growing garlic for the first time this year. I’m growing the Music variety and I cut the scapes off……oops. Some of the tops are turning brown. Is this the best way to determine if they are ready, now that the scapes are off?

  • Hi Theresa,

    When did you harvest the garlic last year? We harvested ours late July. Thank you very much for this information. We weren’t sure whether to leave the garlic in the ground. Ours have fallen over also. They will be coming out of the ground.

  • Yes Susan, when the tops are about halfway brown and you see that the plant no longer looks like it is putting energy into the bulb, it then is a good time to dig. My music is ready to dig now.

    The most important thing with garlic is to take your time and cure it well. I gently rinse off the bulb and place mine in a wire basket in the top of a tin shed, single layer. I leave it in the basket about 3 or 4 weeks to thoroughly dry. Then I cut the stalks off to about three or four inches long and place it in a cool spot in the basement away from light.

    I still have lots of good garlic garlic from 2014 to eat. Keeping the light away from your garlic and a little air circulating around them seems to help them keep for a long time. Good luck to you from Zone 6

  • Have fun with your granddaughter Kate!

    Ray, I have garlic chives as well. They seed and come up everywhere if I let them. So yes, I do take out most of them each year. Not sure it’s necessary, but I do to keep the clump from getting too big.
    I can see where the old stuff get a big more tough and coarse.

    Glad you’re gonna grow it again Farming Bear!

    – Gordon gave a good answer to your question.

    Sue, I didn’t write it down, but I think I harvested last year about the same time.

  • SO happy to see that Bill was able to take a pic!

    I just harvested my garlic couple weeks ago and hope to grow more this fall.

  • Thanks Aparna! It’ll be a while before his footing is stable enough to take pictures in the garden, but we’re thrilled with this first step.
    Glad you’re growing garlic. Were you pleased with the outcome?

  • Now that schools out, i am catching up on my reading, and this reminded me to re-check the garlic. I had pulled some last week when the ground was so wet that the soft-neck stems were coming apart when pulled.

    When I looked out the window to see if the hard-neck leaves had browned, I saw that part of the bricks on my neighbors garage had collapsed right near the bed. We were expecting it to go, just not so soon, but with all the rain and the garage having no foundation under the bricks it was bound to happen. After informing the neighbor, I realized I had better pull the rest of the garlic, or it would be trampled while repairs were being made. Not as large as I would like, but not a bad harvest. Should last through most of the winter.

  • Forgot to mention, we do harvest the scapes. For a while, I thought they didn’t match the hype. This year I realized that the good part was the little bulbules (or are they flower buds) in the head of the scapes. Fried up with mushrooms, they were wonderful.

  • Sure good to hear from you Abby. It’s been a while.
    Loved your use of the garlic bulbils. Sounds like fried up with mushrooms would be really good.
    I’m trying that for sure next year!

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