Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Well, I Knew It Was An Experiment . . .

So, how did it go planting my garlic in the spring instead of the fall?  I have to say . . . FAIL!
Being a person who generally follows the rules, I've always planted our garlic in the fall ('round about mid-October), snuggled it down with a good blanket of mulch for the winter, then watched the little green shoots emerge in the following early spring.
Supposedly, gardeners living in the more more southern, milder climates of our country can and do plant their garlic crop in the spring quite successfully while those of us in the northern states are told we need to plant ours in the fall.  Why?  I've frequently wondered about this so started this little experiment in the fall of 2019.
Per usual, after harvesting and curing that garlic crop I had planted about one year previously (in the fall), I did not replant any of the cloves for my next year's crop.
Instead I waited until the early spring of 2020 to plant that year's new garlic crop.
During the summer they grew beautifully and in the fall of that year (2020), I harvested the garlic bulbs when the plants matured and were ready to be dug and cured.
First thing I noticed was that the bulbs were perhaps a bit smaller than usual, but most were nice sized and there were plenty of them.  I cured them per usual.
Again, no fall planting of the garlic because I wanted to wait and follow through on the experiment to assess their keeping quality over that winter of 2020-2021.  Maybe I was on to something and really didn't have to plant the garlic in the fall.
Next thing noticed was that the garlic didn't seem quite as pungent this time around.  In a couple of months, I began to suspect the bulbs weren't keeping as well even though stored in the same place under the same conditions as they've always been.
The last couple of months of this late winter and early spring of 2021, I've had to search through each bulb selected to find a couple of firm, usable cloves.  Hmmm, is there a picture appearing here?
Because I was still in the midst of my little experiment last fall, as previously said, I did not plant any garlic as we gardeners in the north are told to do.  (Ahem.)
This spring, I did sort through my remaining stash and picked the best looking cloves which were planted on the 5th of April.

This is how the bed looks today.  I've got good germination with only a couple of no-shows so it looks as though I'll get another crop of the experimental spring-planted garlic but, frankly, I don't expect it to be any better in flavor or keeping quality than that of last year.
How many years would I have to continue my experiment with my spring planting of garlic to ascertain it really does make sense to plant it in the fall here in my northern location?  Probably more than the time I've put into it.
On the other hand, I'm willing to believe there are garlic growing experts who know one heckuva lot more than I do, so I'll be purchasing a new supply of garlic from a good commercial grower in a few months and come mid-October of this year, I'll be pushing those new garlic cloves down into the soil of one of my raised garden beds, covering the bed with a deep layer of mulch, giving all a loving pat and telling the cloves that I'll see them next spring.


Rosalea said...

Interesting experiment. May I ask why you didn't want to plant garlic in the fall? I am always so glad to see those green spears shooting up in the spring, often the first sprouts seen. This year, the snow was barely off when they appeared! I just peeled and chopped my remaining garlic from last year's harvest, spread it on fruit leather sheets and dehydrated it. After putting it through a coffee grinder I keep for herbs, I have almost a cup of garlic powder. The cloves were starting to shrink in side their papers, and the odd one sprouted, so planted them.

Mama Pea said...

Rosalea - Why didn't I want to plant the garlic in the fall? Laziness? I was tired of "gardening?" Didn't want to plant ANYthing? Probably just general curiosity as to why the garlic couldn't be planted in the spring like everything else. Of course, we all plant bulbs in the fall for spring blossoming so . . .

I'd wondered for a long time what would happen in our climate if I did plant in the spring instead of fall so I guess I just had to satisfy my curiosity. Now I have and probably will be more of a rule follower in the future!

I've never made my own garlic powder but vow that as soon as I get a really good crop grown from this year's fall planted garlic, I'm gonna do just what you did!

wyomingheart said...

Great experiment, and I must say that I learn so much from you and Leigh, and Rosalea about gardening! I have alot of knowledge about Florida gardening, and can attest that without chemicals and alot of knowhow, yer just not going to get a great garden in that state. I have been very successful with growing the garden here on the ridge, between great soil, awesome compost, and a freezing season to keep the bugs at bay, and help from you folks, who so very willingly post your successes and failures...thank you! I'll bet that garlic will make some good powder, none the less! Perfect info!

Michelle said...

I wonder if the variety makes a difference. I would think some store better than others, and some are more pungent than others.

Tigger's Mum said...

often we do stuff traditional ways, the reasons for which have been lost in mists of time, and if no one ever experimented the fund of human knowledge would never expand. In temperate NZ our garlic rule was plant it on the shortest day and harvest on the longest. That certainly didn't work where we lived in England.

walking in beauty carmarthenshire said...

Hard neck garlic should be planted in the fall, they crop better after subjected to cold/frost.. Soft neck garlic is planted in spring,usually march.
Hope this helps.

Rosalea said...

Wyomingheart! I am extremely humbled to have my name in the same sentence as those two gardening Gurus, Mama Pea and Leigh!! For years and years, I have followed their blogs, and lived vicariously through their posts and pictures, while playing at gardening with my town lot's little raised beds...and dreamed of a chunk of land in full sun, to garden.....Thank you.

Mama Pea said...

wyomingheart - Aw, thank you! Wouldn't ya think that after 50+ years of gardening I'd have it all figured out? Nope, so much depends on the particular season, the soil one is working with, and new varieties of fruit and vegetables we just have to try. Add to that going against "the experts" (just because) and it's always interesting!

I find it so very interesting to hear about how different gardening can be in the different parts of our country, don't you?

Michelle - You're so very right in that varieties of garlic can differ greatly in the ways you mentioned. This garlic that I'm working with is the same I've had since 2016 when I last purchased some from a supplier. I always save some of the biggest, nicest bulbs to take cloves from for planting the next year. So my experiment was done with the same garlic I usually plant in the fall.

Tigger - Another good example of how gardening in not only different parts of the U.S. but different parts of the world (even!) varies greatly. So interesting!

Kathy - This garlic that I've been experimenting with (as I mentioned in the reply to Michelle above) is a mixture of both hard and soft neck varieties. I've read that the hard neck variety does do better, as you say, in colder climates (that's us), but that the soft neck varieties keep better. Go figure! Thanks for your input.

Leigh said...

What great observations, Mama Pea. It's always interesting to experiment! Mine does better fall planted, I think because our summers are too hot for it to grow much. That being said, I seem to always end up leaving some in the ground after spring harvest, and it will often survive. I read somewhere about perennial garlic, grown simply by leaving some in the ground at harvest. And I suspect Michelle is correct about variety making a difference. Mine was originally just grocery store garlic. So I get inconsistent results, but it's garlic.

Mama Pea said...

Leigh - Here we go again with me chuckling (and shaking my head) about the differences in our growing conditions! ;o) You plant your garlic in the fall and harvest in the spring. I plant mine in the fall (or should be!) and don't harvest until late summer, nearly a whole year later! But as you say, if we end up with some garlic, it's garlic and I'm very, very happy to have it.

Charlotte Boord said...

I'm curious, if you continue to plant a small bed in the spring with those garlics, would they eventually acclimate to their new growing season and perform as well as your fall planted garlic? This is assuming you want to use some of your growing space for an experiment.