Just harvested my elephant garlic, and found that 2/3 of the crop (all planted from cloves last fall) came up this year as monocloves instead of full heads. Anyone have any idea why? Didn't think I planted them too close together (about 6" apart). The 1/3 of crop that came out as regular heads all look good/normal size for elephant garlic.
And, a couple of related questions:
• Should I go on and replant the monocloves right now (late June)? Or better to let them air out/dry out a bit and put them in the ground late fall when I plant the rest of next year's crop?
• Do people find the corms worth fooling with? They always tempt me but I've had poor success (actually almost no success) getting them to sprout and grow. Tips?
By the way, I live in Kentucky (zone 6). Soil is so-so, has a fair amount of clay in it (every year we amend it some, but it could always use more).
They came out as mono cloves, because they wanted another season to grow. Elephant Garlic if its not under optimal conditions, or as it grows from various stages, will persist as a mono clove of various size, until the mono clove reachs its maximum size within the proper season for division and maturity. My guess is the cloves were very small, or they didn't have the best growing conditions to reach maximum size this year. If your in a mellow climate, like I've seen in zone 8, they will start growing in early fall, only being dormant after they start growth, for about a month in peak winter, then continuing that growth in late winter, early spring. So planting them late or being in a place with harsh winters or less then optimal growing conditions from any factors, can all drastically slow their development, and time to reach maturity.
When to plant or replant them will depend on your hardiness zones. In zone 8b, they grow as perennial, so anytime they are dormant is ok to plant, and planting later just slows their growth for that harvest season. They will rest when they go dormant in the dry, and put up their growth when they are ready, typically when they come out of the dry if no irrigation is being used. If you fall planted, I would just let them keep growing untill they get mature, but also search out the bulblets: and plant them too. You'll eventually end up with more garlic then you can use, and mono bulbs of any size are still good to eat. Under your conditions, it may take 2 years for cloves to reach maturity, and 4 years for bulblets to mature; however, all stages of mono clover are good to use, and they will typically have bulblets sometimes called bulbils growing under them. The larger the Elephant garlic plant, the more bulblets they will have, even adding more through each season of growth.
The corms have a double casing on them; they'll sprout easier if you peel them both off. But then I would peel and plant late summer or early autumn.
Or you could leave the skins on and plant now, hoping the skins will slowly disintegrate and allow the tiny onion-like thing inside to grow by that time.
I have experience with the first method. Sprouting was not the problem, the biggest problem I found was that the whole plant remained tiny, like a small blade of grass, for the whole first growing season.
The corms I started with were tiny though; 2 - 4 mm in size. In this picture I'm taking the second skin off:
I do also know people that got full-size bulbs with cloves from corms, but then the corms were much, much bigger. So I wouldn't ignore big corms, but the small ones can take a very long time to grow into something worthwhile, so I don't know if those are worth your trouble.
I love Elephant garlic. It keeps so well - at least 18 months after harvest. The big mono bulbs that sometimes happen are great to use as an onion/garlic combo substitute. The flavor is mild enough garlic-wise. As for the tiny bulbils, they will keep for up to 2 years in a bowl in our pantry. But we tend to use them up added into dill pickles after cracking off the hard exterior with a pliers or nut cracker - they look like little pearls. I haven't bothered with planting any of them intentionally, although I occasionaly find a garlic coming up from a missed bulbil the next year. As for planting, we do mostly individual cloves from nice heads but also throw in some of the mid size mono cloves and get a nice mix of sizes.
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