The First Garlic Varieties to Emerge in Spring
As with every year, spring finally comes and most of us on the Canadian prairies can't believe we survived another winter. Once our bodies thaw out from the freeze, we start thinking about more exciting things like our gardens, the farmers market and warm summer days to come.
One of my favourite things to do in spring is to dig up a few of our fall-planted garlic cloves to make sure that they survived the winter and check on root growth. It's always a relief to find cloves that are firm and white with nice thick roots. In exposed areas that don't have enough snow cover, garlic can sometimes winterkill from the extreme cold.
Garlic that has died is usually shriveled up and the cloves have turned a yellow/orange translucent colour. If you see this, it most often means that your garlic froze to death.
Although it's nice to know that the garlic survived the winter, the most exciting time is when the soil has warmed up enough for the first garlic plants to start popping out of the ground. On our farm, that can be anytime from mid-April to early-May depending on the year.
Softneck garlic varieties tend to be some of the first garlic plants to emerge from the ground in spring. On our farm, this means the Italian Softneck variety is usually the first garlic to greet us out in the field. Some softneck varieties are actually quite hardy and I am always impressed to see them growing in spring, especially because they are normally considered a family group more suited to warm climates.
As for hardnecks, Rocambole garlic (eg., Spanish Roja) tends to be the first to emerge in spring and usually begins to grow very quickly once the weather warms up.
Porcelain varieties sometimes take a little longer to emerge, especially during cold springs. They are extremely cold hardy and tend to wait until temperatures have warmed up before starting to emerge, however, they are vigorous growers and always make up for it once the season starts. Porcelain garlic has some of the largest plants and can grow very large bulbs.
About the Author: John Côté owns and operates John Boy Farms with his family who have been farming the same land for over 140 years. As an agronomist and experienced farmer, he helps others learn how to grow garlic successfully. He has written many articles and is the author of The Master Guide to Growing Big Garlic.