Thursday, October 23, 2014

Garlic Planting 2014

It’s time to plant the garlic. This year I am ahead of myself. It’s only mid-October and I actually got it all planted. A couple of days ago I prepped the beds, pulling summer plants and weeds, then adding compost and fertilizer. This year I added a lot of organic compost (McEnroe’s, since I am out of my own). I also added rock phosphate, bone meal, and a general organic fertilizer (Tomato Tone, since I have a large bag of it).




The bed above  was home to the bush beans this year, plus a row of cucumbers, so hopefully the beans helped fix some nitrogen in the soil. The amendments were blended in and the bed smoothed out. You can see the square foot markings I made to guide planting. This 4x4 foot bed has sixteen squares. I will be planting a row of four squares of four types of garlic.




I am using a spacing of 4 cloves per square this year, hoping to maximize bulb size. That gives a spacing of 6 inches in each direction. The official recommendation is 9 per square but I think that is going to affect size. I have used 5 and 6 in the past but this year I am going with 4 per square and hoping for large heads of garlic. Anyway, 64 heads from this bed is already a lot of garlic.




First in the ground, above, was the German Red rocambole garlic I bought last month at the Mount Desert Island Garlic Festival in Southwest Harbor. It was grown by Goosefooté Garlic in Irasburg, Vermont, who made the long trek to MDI for the festival. The heads were enormous with just four huge cloves per head. I purchased four heads so I had enough to plant four squares. Forget the dibble, you need a post hole digger to plant this garlic.




Next was another new garlic, Duganski, a purple stripe from Territorial. For planting I selected the best looking and largest of the cloves from the four heads I received. I documented before why I was not real happy with this shipment of garlic.The sheaths of a lot of the cloves were also loose, as you can see on the bottom cloves in the photo above. Anyway, I found enough decent cloves to plant my 4 squares and I hope the results are good.




Next was German Extra Hardy, my own seed garlic from this year. Last year I was disappointed at planting time that the heads I set aside were soft and the cloves were turning yellow. This year the seed garlic I set aside was fine and the cloves were firm.  Last year I had to discard enough cloves I only had enough for 3 squares, but this year I succeeded in planting 4  squares. So hopefully last year was an anomaly. I thought the bulbs I harvested this year were smaller but in separating cloves for planting, the individual cloves are quite large, so I am hoping for big heads next summer.




Finally for this bed, I put in my own Chesnok Red seed garlic, another purple stripe. This garlic has grown well for me and also keeps well. I think, again, that heads were a little smaller this year  than the year before, but it’s a new year and I have great expectations from this one.




After planting the garlic, I mulched the bed with chopped straw. I really like this material, made for landscapers for seeded lawns. The brand I used here is called Mulch Master. The straw is chopped so individual pieces are small, making it easy to spread around under existing plants. It is heat sterilized to kill weed seeds and I have never had a problem with weeds using it. It is light, doesn’t mat up and it quickly decomposes by the end of the season. The mulch will help protect the garlic cloves from heaving this winter when the beds go through all the freeze/thaw cycles.




Finally, I headed home with all the unused cloves from my seed garlic, planning to freeze or dry the unused cloves. What a surprise when I started removing the skins from some of the cloves. I believe the garlic cloves above were from the Duganski heads. All  of these were promptly discarded, while a few with one or two small spots were used after the spots were removed. Trying to figure out what these spots were, all I can come up with is these cloves are infected with Fusarium, also known as garlic basal rot. Notice that the color of the cloves is also yellowish when they should be white. Nice. So I just planted a row of diseased garlic in my bed, and that does not make me happy. Anyone have another, more hopeful, opinion on what these spots are?


Here is another question for those more experienced with garlic than I. Can you/do you plant garlic cloves without their sheaths? A lot of the sheaths were loose on some of the garlic, or were stuck to the neighboring clove and stripped when I separated the cloves. Those I took home to use. But in addition, if you want to avoid planting diseased cloves like those above, you have to remove the skins to see if the clove inside is healthy. I did not know these were affected or I would certainly not have planted them. Anyway, I am hoping for the best but moderating my expectations.


  1. Thanks for the really interesting tutorial, Dave. I haven't yet tried to grow garlic, but I feel the time is nigh (meaning next fall). Be sure and let us know if 4/sq really does increase your production over 9/sq.

  2. Oh David - so sorry about the garlic! I don't know what the issue is but hopefully whatever it is isn't infectious. Now I'm all worried about he seed garlic that I purchased - you just never know, especially when you are purchasing from a new source. I am replanting some of my garlic from last year - so that is fine - but I also have a few new varieties that I purchased at a garlic festival as well (including Dugasnkij - slightly different spelling but I think it's the same thing). I'm quite behind on planting them, however - they should have gone in the ground last week but I haven't been able to get a load of compost yet.

    As for planting peeled garlic - I've always had it in my head that it is not recommended but can be done and I think I may have done that a few times when I didn't have enough "perfect" cloves for a bed. I believe that it worked out ok but didn't document it so can't be sure. That may be a good experiment when you have extra cloves, just to see what happens.

  3. It looks like you prep the bed for garlic much like I do. I have some Tomato-tone left and I am planning on using that too. And I don't know what the brown spots are but some of my garlic gets it occasionally. I just toss it out once I see it. Thankfully I haven't seen it too often. As for peeling the cloves, I don't do it but I think some peel and then soak the cloves in a baking soda solution to prevent disease. I believe Daphne used to do that, but I don't know if she still does. According to my book "Growing Great Garlic", it is ok to plant the naked cloves as long as they are not damaged or bruised.

  4. It could be that the bad garlic has not been stored properly or treated well, it might be just bruised and dried out. Garlic planting is high on my list of gotta do this week. We had some water fall out of the sky yesterday (rain?, really?, what's that?) which I used as an excuse to be lazy, I should have been clearing out a space for the garlic.

  5. Hello Dave,
    have you found out what was your disease. I just bought very expensive garlic seeds from France and when I tried the garlic taste at home I found the same spots as yours. Did you had any problems with your crop after that ?

    1. Well, I planted the best looking of the cloves and they did fine. I'm still growing Duganski and my bulbs look a lot better than the stuff I got shipped by Territorial.

  6. Dave,

    I just got a shipment from territorial that has the same lesions. I ordered 7 pounds so was disappointed. Did you ever see the fusarium again (I believe this may not be the fusarium that causes basal rot but fusarium prolif.)? I am worried that I infected my field and I am calling territorial for full refund. Any info on whether ur garlic is 100% healthy or do u still see the lesions would be great.

  7. My garlic is healthy and I don't have the lesion problem with my own garlic. I only planted healthy cloves. You do have to be careful not to infect your soil, which is why you order from reliable suppliers.


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