I have been successfully growing hardneck garlic for years in Dundas Ontario replanting the largest cloves in October. Now the bulbs consist of only 4 large cloves. Previously there were 6 or more cloves in each bulb which I prefer. Is it due to fertilizing, crop selection or something else? What can I do?
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners with your inquery concerning garlic.
If any vegetable has experiences a renaissance lately, it has to be garlic. This is because it is a dream backyard craop, easy to grow and let;s face it one can never cook with too much garlic.
The key to a good crop of garlic is planting at the right time for your area. In general, garlic grows best in full sun with fertile, well-draining soil that has s a pH in the range of 6 to 7.5. Avoid clay and sandy soil (which dries out too easily), as well as soils prone to excessive frost heaving or those that contain lots of stones. Do not plant garlic in areas where water pools, as this could promote fungal infections. Before planting, prepare the soil by working in organic matter (e.g., compost or well-rotted manure) to a depth of 15 cm (6 in.). Plant the garlic 4-6 weeks before the ground freezes, to gove the roots enough time to establish. Once the ground is frozen, mulch (e.g., with chopped leaves or straw) to minimize harm from the freeze-thaw cycle.
In the spring, once the threat of frost has passed, remove the mulch. As soon as you see the garlic growing, apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer, such as blood meal. From early to mid July, the garlic has stopped producing new leaves and begins to form bulbs. Once the bottom three leaves on your plant have yellowed and the top six leaves are still green is the perfect time to harvest your garlic.
Not knowing your growing requirements it is difficult for us to know the reason that you are seeing fewer clover in your bulbs. In general, the biggest heads grow from the biggest cloves. Large cloves have more energy stored up to help get your garlic off to a good start, and are more resistant to frost damage. If you saved some of your harvested garlic for planting, select the larger of your heads for seed garlic and eat the smaller heads.
When fertilizing your garlic only do so between pre-planting time and late spring when scapes begin to form. Otherwise you could encourage too much top growth instead of head development.
Also, it is important to plant your garlic with plenty of room for their roots to grow, and to keep the garlic from competing with each other for nutrients and water. Spacing them at 6 inches when planting is best. By keeping your garlic’s soil cool for as long as possible until it is ready for harvest will give your garlic the longest time possible to develop large heads. If your soil gets too hot too early, head growth will stop when they are still small.
Weeds growing among your garlic provide unnecessary competition and take away nutrients and water from your growing bulbs.Lastely, make sure to check your growing garlic frequently for scapes which are the flowering stalk , and remove them at leaf level. They’re good to eat, so don’t throw them out! The scapes should not be allowed to grow because this takes energy away from head growth.
Here’s to a bountiful harvest!