I’ve just pulled up the first two batches of this year’s garlic because the leaves had already died down. I knew it wasn’t going to be any good, because the green stems that should have been single green stems had split into several green stems, indicating that I wasn’t going to get a single large bulb, but that it had already split into cloves under the ground. Which was exactly what had happened. Surprisingly though, the split bulbs were quite big and some had very large cloves indeed. So I was more pleased than I thought I’d be.
The other two batches should be even better because their green stems haven’t split and are as thick as my finger, indicating some decent sized bulbs down there. The stems are still green and erect, so they obviously have a bit more growing and bulb-expanding to do.
One of the good batches was grown from bulbs bought from Green Harvest — variety Glen Large. The other three batches were grown from beautiful big bulbs purchased at the local greengrocer — labelled ‘Australian Garlic’. Why two of them decided to split and one didn’t is a mystery, since they were all planted on the same day and have received the same treatment.
When I first started growing garlic, I did what most references I read said to do — plant cloves on the shortest day and harvest on the longest. Those first bulbs I got were so disappointingly tiny that I was ready to give up. I must have missed harvesting one, because it re-sprouted the next autumn and eventually grew into a giant! So from then on, I’ve planted my cloves in autumn (at which time they sprout within a week) and harvested them when the leaves brown and wither. Longer growing season = bigger bulbs.
Penny Woodward’s book Garlic and friends is an invaluable reference on all aspects of the Allium (onion) family.