Weeds in Garlic, Bulbing, When To Harvest & A Whole Lot More

Dateline: 13 July 2013

A garlic "grove" in my 2013 garden 

There was a time, years ago, when I grew a lot of stiffneck garlic. I processed it into garlic powder and sold it. It was a nice little home business. But I lost the use of the land I was growing on, and I got busy with other projects, and I didn't grow any garlic—even in my garden—for a few years. Last October, however, I managed to get some garlic planted again and, as the picture above shows, it has grown very well.

The garlic I planted came from a friend. I helped him with a plumbing repair on his house and he paid me in garlic bulbs. I was very pleased to get the bulbs-for-seed from this particular friend because he has been growing his own garlic for several years, replants his own seed, and has had no disease issues. That's a good thing because in recent years a lot of mail-order garlic seed has been contaminated with crop-devastating nematodes.

I planted the garlic cloves in a wide row using a planting template (as explained in The Planet Whizbang Idea Book For Gardeners). The template allows me to plant wide rows of precisely spaced plants.  I've used the template for planting many garlic crops, and had excellent success with the technique. After planting, I mulch with straw. The straw suppresses weeds (more about weeds shortly).

The Summer 2013 issue of Maine Organic Farmer & Gardener newspaper (which I subscribe to and enjoy very much) has an article titled "Garlic, in Depth." The article is a synopsis of information presented in a MOFGA conference by David Stern, a garlic grower in the Hudson Valley of New York. Mr. Stern is also president of the Garlic Seed Foundation. I've spoken to David a couple of times on the phone. The Garlic Seed Foundation used to sell my book, Making Great Garlic Powder, when it was still in print. 

Anyway, David Stern knows a LOT about growing garlic and if you want to benefit from his knowledge, it so happens that you can read (and learn) what he shared with the MOFGA conference attendees at this link: Garlic, In Depth at MOFGA

Here's an interesting bit of garlic-growing information from the newspaper article:

David Stern said that beginning on June 22, as the days shorten, garlic puts its energy and carbohydrates into bulb formation rather than top growth. Any shade before then will limit growth. Weeds, for example, can reduce yields by 30%.

On the subject of when to harvest garlic (most people harvest way too late) the online article that I linked to above states:

After June 21 you can stop cultivating. Stern said if growers pull one garlic bulb every week between June 22 and harvest, they will see the bulb double in size each week for four weeks. If garlic is left in the ground longer, it will eventually grow out of its skin, and the bulb will bust open.
“Harvest garlic when you start to see a gap right around the stalk,” said Stern; “the second or third week in July.  
Nothing above ground – e.g., one-third of the leaves turning brown – will tell you when to harvest, said Stern, as drought, disease and other factors (cultivation damage) can affect above-ground growth.

That is the first I've heard of harvesting when you start to see a gap around the stalk. I 'm pretty sure that the "gap" he is speaking of can also be described as a split that forms above the bulb, where it joins to the stalk, and it occurs because the bulb is swelling. 

I'm checking my bulbs every day now, and will dig them when I see the gap.


P.S. If you haven't seen my homemade garlic bulb dryer yet, Click Here

My dryer idea is similar to the dryer idea David Stern mentioned at the MOFGA conference....

Stern showed a rough design for a tulip-garlic bulb dryer: Garlic is put in bushel crates on a pallet, and the sides of the setup are wrapped in plastic. A fan blows air in through the bottom pallet, and another fan blows air across the top of the crates, drying the crop in two days. This could be a portable set-up, moved from farm to farm. In humid, wet summers, a little heat could be added to help drying.


Matt B said...

Good to see you are back to growing garlic. Could it be possible that you will be selling "Herrick's Homegrown Garlic Powder" again in the near future, Lord willing?


Herrick Kimball said...

The thought has crossed my mind. :-)

Curtis Swartzentruber said...

We are really enjoying growing our own garlic now that we live in a rural area. We are finally buying a property where we will be able to grow a bit more (hopefully enough to keep us in garlic all winter or as long as we can get it to store). That Stern link has a whole lot of great information.