© 2015 by Raymond Alexander Kukkee
Success with Garlic: Grow Better Garlic
If you’re a back-yard, versatile gardener, it’s a pretty fair guess you may already grow garlic in your vegetable-patch. Not giving it a second thought, you may plant garlic in the spring, grow, harvest and use it all up. Buy some more bulbs the following spring, perhaps even a different variety, plant, and use it up, and repeat. Every year. Why not? With careful planning, your own garlic has greater potential.
Garlic is good stuff, an ancient, tasty onion-like vegetable full of vitamins, natural antibiotics, and although it is pungent socially and may be very hot and spicy, it is healthy, valuable food. Now you can increase your chances of success growing garlic—grow better garlic, or eventually perhaps even develop your own variety. Yes, you can grow better garlic, improve the type, quality and the size of garlic you plant in your back-yard garden by using these growing tips.
Plant Garlic in Raised Garden Beds
Always plant garlic in raised beds if possible to do so, to optimize growth. Garlic needs water as other vegetables do, but performs best in well-drained soil with rich organic content. Raised beds warm more quickly in the spring for earlier growth and faster start, and are not subject to excessively-wet soil conditions. Heavy rainfall, —particularly late in the season if garlic is almost ready to harvest —can result in excessive spoilage of your best garlic bulbs. Rule of thumb —When garlic leaves are beginning to yellow, garlic should be harvested to be dried and cleaned, especially if wet soil conditions persist.
Plant Garlic in the Fall
Planting garlic cloves late in the fall as opposed to spring planting gives the garlic time to develop a large root system for a head start on growth in the spring as soils warm. Plant 2-3 weeks ahead of the ground freezing in your area. The objective is to grow roots only, with no top growth in the fall. Top growth that breaks the surface in the fall when planted too early dies off with freezing, and diminishes food storage and growth potential in the clove. If you cannot plant in the fall, plant as EARLY as possible in the spring.
Choose the Largest, Best Garlic Cloves for seed:
To grow better garlic, choose the biggest and best-formed bulbs from your own crop when harvesting. Allow them to dry, clean, and and take choice cloves for planting in the fall. Doing so allows you the the optimum start for growing next year’s crop. Ensure there is a section of ‘root base’ or ‘footprint’ on each clove you save. Choosing weak, small garlic cloves for seed will result in a slower start and diminished potential. These are hybridized, acclimatized and choice garlic cloves chosen for seed. These are not the large “elephant” variety.
Separate Beds for Different Types of Garlic
If you enjoy and want to preserve the flavour of specific varieties of garlic, some mild, and others which are stronger, hot and spicy, separate them into identifiable groups when planting. Garlic cross-pollinates. In photo 5.0 below note the dual nature and difference in size of the cloves in the garlic bulb at the six-o’clock position.
If you cannot separate the varieties adequately for lack of space in your garden, ensure the groups are identified, and remove the * ‘scapes’ (flower stalks) well before the florets open and mature . If left in place and allowed to mature, the florets open, pollination of the florets takes place, and seed, or tiny bulbs, called bulbils will form. For the best performance, snap off the tender, curly scapes with their white, immature floret and use them for salads, stir-fries, or steamed like asparagus.
*Hint: The timely removal of scapes when they ‘curl’, (before the florets mature) also results in larger garlic bulbs.
Acclimatize your Garlic!
Garlic not only cross-pollinates, but adapts itself to unique soil and climate conditions. Optimum growth and size of any garlic variety may not occur for a couple of years as the garlic adapts to conditions in a specific locality and micro-climate. That optimization alone is an excellent reason to harvest and save garlic bulbils and cloves from favourite types and re-planting rather than purchasing new seed. The following photo comparing the size of garlic bulbs is for comparative purposes; garlic grown initially but optimized for best growing conditions and acclimatized for several years in the same location.
Maintain and Experiment with Generations of Garlic
If you plant a) seed or bulbils b) small first-year garlic bulbs, and c) cloves from large, mature garlic all in the same growing season, three generations of garlic will be growing. Bulbils, or seed, when planted the first year, may produce a very small, bulb consisting of cloves, or alternatively, a small, round, ‘onion-like’ bulb. Planted the second growing season, a normal, full-sized garlic bulb(sectioned into cloves) will be produced.
If cross-pollinated, none of the three choices will necessarily remain true to type, but planting different generations of garlic does offer the opportunity to choose and optimize, as an example, these bulbils, which were unusually large, and were selected to be planted in the hope that larger bulbs would be produced.
Experiment and Go by Results Achieved
As with any experiment, the happy gardener can only go by results achieved, whether it is planting one variety of garlic or several varieties together and allow them to cross-pollinate. The photos show a transition from cross-pollination of two types, of which there are many. See the Garlic Compendium for a listing of various types available at the time of writing the list. Many more are available. With care and thoughtful planning, you, too, can grow better garlic starting this season. Happy Gardening!
Is that Incoming I hear?
Tags: gardening, how to grow garlic, grow better garlic, pollination, gardening techniques, growing food, gardening skills, acclimatization