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.
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.
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.
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.
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