The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Garlic sprouting inhibitors – beware

first garlic and courgetteIn the autumn of 2006 I split a fat head of French garlic and planted it in a sunny position in the kitchen garden. Even though we grow our own, our supply is supplemented with huge heads of garlic that Jocelyn and Miles bring back from France. Danny pottered down to the engine room (gardening wise) of our ship and christened it The French Row.
“When will we see these French ones sprouting?”
“They’ll send up shoots in the spring if all is well.”

In the spring it was clear that all was not well with The French Row. Just a long row of earth, not even a weed to break the monotony. I imagined that the cloves had rotted in the ground.

I had been super optimistic, hoping for a miracle bumper crop that didn’t need to cross the sea from France.

Most people say that it’s inadvisable to try to grow garlic from heads that you buy in the shops as it could be disappointing. In spring 2007 I opened a book and discovered that ˜could be disappointing’ means that they might have been treated with sprouting inhibitors.
“Would this inhibit garlic breath?” Danny mused.

Our other garlic crop (grown from planting heads) was pathetic last summer. It sprouted but eventually left us with twenty small, mealy mouthed heads. The cool wet summer and paltry crop didn’t have me clawing at the doors of the local nursery garden for new sets in the autumn.

When I eventually bought some heads mid winter, events overtook the dalliance and the heads were lost in the kitchen. Don’t make the mistake of imagining that our cottage kitchen is huge. The amount of stuff in the kitchen is massive. A misplaced bag can be AWOL for years.

Having missed out on early planting last year I was amazed when The French Row started sprouting this spring. After eighteen months rest, the inhibitor had released the brakes. This evening I spotted a seed head and quickly dug up the row of heads. Small but perfectly formed garlic heads are lying on the kitchen table alongside the first courgette of the year.

Despite this belated success, I will only sow decent planting heads from now on. The three heads of garlic that I bought from the Hampton Court Flower Show are already drying in the green house for autumn planting in our sunniest bed.

Perhaps 2009 will give us the long sunny days that are needed to give us garlic that will challenge the chunky heads from France. But even if the heads are small they’ll be organic and not contaminated with chemicals, bleaching agents and other horrors.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Lynn

    That is bizarre. At least you got the 15 heads!

    HI Pat

    It™s the same with us every year, some stuff is great and loads just nosedives. We don™t have a single pear on the pear tree this year, last year the branches swept the ground with the weight of fruit.

    Hi Magic Cochin

    We had the garlic in the best and sunniest bed last year and the dig upable crop was poor. Too little sun I think. This year we have the shy French garlic!

    Hi Kay

    This is the garlic that I bought at Hampton Court Flower Show. The Garlic Farm heads. Now drying in the greenhouse for autumn planting.

    Hello Kate(uk)

    We™ve had great harvests of garlic when the weather has been hot during the summer. Even on a bad year it™s been exciting to lift our own heads. There™s nothing like your own fresh home grown garlic. It freezes well too!

    Hi Suzi

    Good point “ look for the garlic that™s sprouting a little! I™m going to plant some along the front wall of the cottage this autumn. The sun is concentrated here from 11 in the morning. It™ll be interesting to compare the back garden/front garden results.

    Hi Bridget

    Wow, three hundred cloves! Lets hope that they all become plump heads for you.

    Garlic is such a good thing to grow. It™s so good for you and a head of home grown makes a perfect present.

  2. Bridget

    We have the same problem over here with garlic that’s been chemically treated. Most of the garlic for sale in NZ is imported from China; very little NZ garlic, let alone organic, is available. So this year I’m growing my own. Rather ambitiously I’ve put in over 300 cloves…. figured we might be able to sell some at the local market if the crop is OK. If not, we’ll have lots to give away as gifts! I sourced our garlic from a commercial grower I found online and also some from a specialist seed saving organisation. (BTW it’s winter here).

  3. We tried proper “planting” garlic for the first time this year and it has been pathetic – hardly any top growth at all. To make up for it I planted some “cooking” garlic, which we have always used before, and it is growing well.
    I suspect that it’s only the supermarket garlic that is treated with the growth inhibitor.In greengrocers round here you can see garlic that’s sprouting a bit while still in the shop.

  4. Kate(uk)

    I’m going to give garlic a try this year-determined to get more veg this year despite the unpromising weather, so I’ve started fertilising the courgettes/marrows and squashes myself, looks like the first ones will be ready next week, snails allowing.

  5. The best English garlic comes from my old home, the Isle of Wight, where we have a Garlic Festival every year with a Garlic Queen – you can buy untreated bulbs from them that are naturally acclimatised to British growing conditions.

  6. magic cochin

    Garlic’s so dependent on the weather – well done getting some OK heads this year.

    I remember harvesting some one very successful (hot sunny)summer and giving a bulb to a work colleague who was keen on cooking. When he used it his neighbour shouted across the garden fence “Go easy on the garlic!!!!”


  7. Well done on the garlic, I just pulled all my onions and have them drying in the mini green house. This has been a rocky gardening year here. Some things have done well and some haven’t.

  8. Well, congrats on the garlic! What a pleasant surprise that must have been. I had just the opposite experience…mine went missing. It all came up in the spring, (about 40 heads looking healthy and strong)and then about two weeks ago I went over to weed and found mostly weeds. I did manage to harvest about 15 heads of decent size. But it is a mystery to me! I dug up the whole bed and the rest is really missing.

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