Saturday, 23 November 2013

Garlic fail!

A few weeks ago I read with trepidation  Liz's post on Suburban Tomato about her unsuccessful garlic harvest. For some weeks I had been watching the rather pathetic garlic stalks in my garden whither away (not helped by the odd  "naughty chook got BUSTED in the garden stampede") knowing that the day would soon be coming where I would  need to soon take the plunge and dig them up.

Last Saturday was that day..... and here are the results of my entire garlic harvest.......

Unlike Liz I don't necessarily use my best cloves its more a case of what happens to be left over and sprouting at the end of the season. Never the less I swear on the whole the cloves have still managed to end up smaller than when I put them in.

In the past I used Chinese garlic because that's all there seemed to be around (you can see there is still some white garlic which I think dates from that time). For the past two seasons I have added in organic purple garlic that I have picked up from Farmers Markets.

With this being my second year with a less than bumper harvest I have been interested to see what other people think might be the problem. Last year I am sure I read a similar post on Liz's blog where readers mentioned that garlic needs lots of food. So in preparation this year I dug mounds of chooky goodness (composted manure and wood shavings) a few weeks prior to planting. Throughout the growing season I also gave the plants the odd dose of worm wee.... mmm so maybe it's not nutrients after all.

My second idea is that it's about water. I am thinking well watered draining soil might be the best. I am growing my garlic in fairly heavy clay type soil so its a real balancing act to keep the soil wet but avoid water- logging and rotting the bulbs. I am putting it out there in a totally non scientifically tested way that the water balance is most important right about the time the growth is highest before the plants suck all that nutrient back into the bulb. That was right about the time I went away and the whole bed ended up a little dry.

My third idea is that garlic needs 100% sun. I am going to struggle in the yard with proving this, so to test out this theory I am going to plant out some of the bulbs in the planter and my new community garden plot. Stay tuned for this time next year for the results.


  1. I feel your pain! My garlic harvest this year was best I've had, but still pretty average. I likewise gave them lots of feeding (dirty duck pond water in my case) and a reasonably sunny spot. I think variety also made a difference in my case. Like you, I have clay soil so I think next year I will be finding a very sunny spot, giving its lots of manure, digging in some sand to aid drainage and then if I still get a rubbish crop I'm going to retire from garlic growing and just buy it!

  2. Given Bek's comments and my and your experiences I'm thinking that it has been a bad year for garlic in this part of Melbourne - my theory is that it didn't get cold enough but as I'm frequently wrong...... Did you grow soft neck garlic? I did and perhaps hardneck would have done better. I'm also thinking its a water thing. But then it might be sun too. My bed was pretty dry at times and I think that harmed bulb development. Like Bek I'm going to try one more time - in the bed where I got my best ever whole years worth of garlic harvest a couple of years ago and see if it is all about position.

  3. mmmm good point Liz! The cold factor was something I hadn't even considered. Just another thing that has the potential to impact a successful harvest. I have been growing soft head garlic. Oh well lets all report back this time next year to see if garlic will be an ongoing additive in the garden.