I’ve learnt a lot about growing garlic this year….well at least I think I’ve learnt a lot. Previously I’ve always just grown one variety of garlic which generally did OK for me. This year though I decided to branch out and try some new varieties. This has meant I had different varieties to compare the performance of and muse about. If nothing else I have a few new theories to test next year. Firstly though it would be nice to review last year.
When this years crop was ready for harvest I still had a little of last years crop left – admittedly they are very small fiddly heads, but they are still usable. As a result I am happy to report that last years crop lasted the entire year. A very big YAY.
As you can kind of make out above, I plait my softneck garlic and store it in the laundry which maintains a reasonably mild temperature year round. I did get a bit of almost sprouting – not actual shoots but some green bits in the middle of many of the cloves. This was from June onwards but it didn’t progress beyond a little bit of green. It also didn’t seem to affect the flavour much. That year I grew just under 100 heads. Many of these were fairly small. If you are able to grow bigger heads you may get away with less but I think 80 – 100 is about right for a years supply for a family of four reasonably enthusiastic garlic eaters.
This year I grew 5 varieties of garlic, but due to the labels being moved by small hands I have to admit not being able to discern which is which beyond a fairly basic level. A couple of the varieties were so similar they were incredibly difficult to differentiate between (and in fact may actually be the same variety – for further details about what I planted see this post.). What I was able to differentiate between were the purple and white varieties. The purple variety I grew was Purple Monaro which, allegedly, is a hardneck variety but it didn’t flower in my garden. The white varieties I grew were Italian White and Italian Common which seem to be incredibly similar and performed very similarly in my garden. Both are softneck varieties.
In a nutshell the softneck varieties did much better than the hardneck ones. However neither (with the exception of some heads) did as well as my fathers. He had brilliant returns from both his hard and soft neck varieties.
When I grow garlic I do it on the 12-15cm grid planting the cloves about 2-3cm below the soil level. When he grows garlic he sows the cloves (often the smallest ones) in herb pots, planting them out once they have germinated and grown on a bit. He plants in about a 15cm grid. When he sows his garlic he plants the cloves as you would plant shallots – ie with the top of the clove being at or slightly above the level of the soil/potting mix.
His garden is at 600m above sea level, mine is about 70m – if that. His garden is on average about 4 degrees Celsius cooler than mine, possibly more at night. His garlic gets full sun, mine gets about 6 hours a day.
I reckon the preparation of our beds is pretty similar and whilst its difficult to assess watering levels I reckon they’d be pretty similar too.
So which of the differences in our gardens is most likely to account for the differences do you think? I do like Michelle and Daphne’s thought (in the comments of this week’s Monday Harvest post) that the hardneck varieties do better in cooler climates. Despite what Sydneysiders may think Melbourne has a pretty mild climate. I also think that sun has something to do with it too.
What I would also like to know though is why some of my heads of the same variety are a lot bigger than others. The size of the cloves I planted was fairly uniform but perhaps there were different nutrients in different parts of the bed?
Regardless though I think it is safe to say that softneck varieties do better in Melbourne’s climate relatively mild climate. Although I liked how the how easy it is to peel Purple Monaro I will take the larger cloves on my two ‘Italian’ varieties any day. From now on I think I will stick to the soft necks, they might not have romantic names but they do seem to be far more productive.
I’m not the first Melbournian muse about garlic growing- City Garden, Country Garden wrote an interesting post on this a couple of weeks back. I would love you to add your thoughts on garlic growing as well – what worked for you and what doesn’t.