Experiments in Garlic Growing, Part 2

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

Let us turn our minds back four months (almost to the day by coincidence) to April of this year. Way back then, in a season that felt not so much unlike this one in many ways, what with the rain and the fact that I was wearing rain boots and long sleeved shirts, and it wasn’t winter but it wasn’t exactly hot either (I spit on you Summer 2009), I happened to mention that for various reasons this would be a year of garlic experimentation.

To recap:

  • October 2008 – I did not plant any garlic. Boo. Hiss.
  • April 2009 – I planted some sprouted garlic cloves purchased from a local garlic farmer. These are next up for harvest, but so far, so good from the surface. The seemed to reach maturity and definitely produced scapes.
  • I happened to notice a few garlic leaves popping out of the soil, remnants of a bulb from the previous year’s crop that must have been missed during the harvest. Based on placement in the garden, I guessed that the variety is ‘Music.’

This brings us to today, or rather, yesterday to be precise. Most of the garlic growing at my community garden plot has died back and it’s time to start harvesting. I pulled up the “accidental” garlic and low and behold this is the result:

Photo by Gayla Trail  All Rights Reserved

Despite growing very closing together, all of the cloves seem to have produced bulbs. It definitely looks like ‘Music’. If memory serves, they are smaller, but not much smaller than bulbs of the same variety I pulled up in late summer 2008. Now, if I were to leave one of these bulbs in the ground and come back at this time next year, I’d predict that they would be even smaller. And so on, and so on. However, for a completely accidental crop, I’m calling it a happy success.

Hooray for screwing up and missing a bulb while harvesting! Let’s do this again.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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18 thoughts on “Experiments in Garlic Growing, Part 2

  1. Music is a wonderful variety, so it’s lucky if that’s your Mystery Garlic. I love Music.

    I have a single plant I put into the bed in April, and am going to pull soon. Then it’s a new crop starting in a month or so.

  2. My garlic did really…yeesh…this year. We had a LOT of rain in the late spring, not to mention cooler temps. The varieties that usually do well for me (Siberian especially) did poorly in a fairly spectacular way. Music did fairly well, though. I’m not going to grow as much next year, but I will put in a decent amount. I harvested 156 heads this year.

  3. Jody in PA: 165 heads! That is a lot of garlic!

    Fiona: I grew ‘Music’ in that part of the bed in 2008 so I’m sure that’s what it is. The other varieties were too far off in another part of the bed to be that.

  4. Li: October. The garlic in this post was from the previous year… I missed it while harvesting. So it was in on time, just spaced too closely (because the new bulbs were formed from the cloves of a bulb that was left in the ground.)

    I haven’t harvested the April planted garlic yet. But also keep in mind that those cloves were pre-sprouted. So while they were late, they had some chance to catch up once established.

  5. I put in a sampler set from Territorial Gardens last fall (Silverskin, Bogatyr, Siberian, Oregon something or other, Purple something, and Elephant garlic is all I can remember now – I’ve lost the list). They all came up fairly healthy, if small, when I picked them at the beginning of this summer. I’d also only planted a few cloves of each. Next year, when I have more room for them, I’ll definitely plan more cloves of each and use more of the scapes.

  6. That is some very pretty garlic! Look at those colours! I might have to try to grow me some. I love hearing about happy accidents like this, it’s like finding $20 in your coat pocket from last year.

    Any other suggestions for a fall planting? (Shame on me for mentioning cooler weather)

  7. My garlic rotted because it was in pots. I know that a good percentage of the money crop did the same.
    Some years back a friend of mine in the film business grew it as a hobby crop, but gave it up due to the vagaries of our new ‘summers’.
    I’ll try again in a field this fall, but one never knows with garlic apparently.

  8. Jennifer,
    Buy cloves, garlic is a bulb plant not a seed plant, although the cloves are used as the ‘seed’ (confused yet?). :-)
    In this case the term ‘seed’ has a general meaning in so far as anything that can be sown i.e. “seed” potatoes, “seeds” of corn or sunflower “seeds”. In the case of sunflower and corn “seeds”, what is sown is the seed enclosed in a shell or hull, and the potato is a tuber and one can propogate them by planting small pieces of a spud that has grown an ‘eye’.
    For best results, plant in the fall for next summers crop and because it is a ‘bulb, think drainage.
    Hope that helps

  9. I’ve long heard that growing garlic helps to repel aphids. For years I’ve planted a few scattered garlic in the ground and in pots, not even with the intent of harvesting, but just to test it. I think it’s helped reduce aphid numbers, but this year I didn’t plant any, and the aphids are out of control this summer. So I’ll definitely be planting my fall crop.

  10. Hi Gayla, I love your website :)

    I too have accidental garlic growing. Quite a lot of it as we had a wet June/July here in the UK and I didn’t lift any of the bulbs I planted last year as I thought they would have all rotted after the leaves died off too early. It turns out that the ones in pots survived, and now I have clumps of shoots growing in about 10 places. When can I harvest these? If I want garlic bulbs do I just leave them in their pots until next summer? And if I want green garlic instead, when is the best time to harvest it?

  11. Hi Rebecca, Dig up the bulbs when the plants (leaves and stalks) die back. You can harvest the green garlic at anytime while the leaves are still young and tender. Harvest scapes when they come out.

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