Lifting This Year’s Garlic

Last week I decided to lift the bulk of this year’s garlic crop. It’s technically a little early – according to a recent email from The Garlic Farm, at least – but as you can see below, one variety was quite badly hit with allium rust and I’d spotted signs of onion white rot in another, so I didn’t see much point in leaving it in the ground to get worse.

Here’s the state of the crop before harvesting:

June 2016 Garlic crop
Plenty of foliage, some of is a bit rusty, time to see what the bulbs are doing…

All seed garlic was bought from The Garlic Farm and planted out last September so it could over-winter.

1. ‘Extra Early Wight’ – a softneck variety that’s suitable for harvesting a little earlier than most.
2. ‘Elephant Garlic’ – a definite favourite, performed wonderfully well last year, cloves lasted for months and months.
3. ‘Carcasonne Wight’ – a hardneck variety that was supposed to be able to support flowers, and would have done if we hadn’t eaten the scapes…

I started with the ‘Carcasonne Wight’ and as I’d feared, more than half of it was infected with allium white rot, a nasty fungal infection that damages the stems and bulbs, reducing vigour and rendering cloves inedible:

June 2016 allium rot
Not what you want to see when you lift your garlic.

I cleaned up what I could, saving a few half-bulbs for immediate use, and set the rest for drying:

June 2016 - Carcasonne Wight harvest
Not a great return on around 30 planted cloves.

Next to come out, the ‘Extra Early Wight’. Much better results from that one, only one bulb showed any signs of white rot, and that was cleanable and usable. The rest were quite badly affected with allium rust – a fungal infection that usually only affects the outer layers of the leaves and stems, so doesn’t damage the bulb – but once they were cleaned and trimmed I had three dozen bulbs to set out for drying in the greenhouse:

June 2016 Extra Early Wight harvest
Much better – 36 lovely cloves of good-sized garlic – enough to last all winter.

I’ve left the elephant garlic in the ground for now, but I might be tempted to lift that at the weekend, rather than risk any white rot creeping in. It’s such a great crop – flavourful without being too overpoweringly garlicky, and the cloves last for months if properly stored – that it would be a shame to lose any of it just for the sake of hoping for a few extra grams of weight.

I’ll be placing this year’s seed order with The Garlic Farm before too long. ‘Elephant’ and ‘Extra Early Wight’ are both definites, but I won’t be growing ‘Carcasonne Wight’ again.

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