Garlic planting for 2018 was done last fall, yet now might be the best time to reflect on some of the things we learned about planting during the 2017 season. We conducted a small study this last year (planted in the fall of 2016) relating to different things that we wonder about while planting. Specifically, we were wondering about the consequence of planting wrong. We know that we should be planting the largest cloves to get the largest bulbs and we have been told that we should be planting the cloves upright.
These are important recommendations to test in North Dakota because following these guidelines adds a lot of time to growing garlic. For instance, we spend time grading the garlic so that we select the largest bulbs for planting. We also spend time selecting the largest cloves from the largest bulbs. The smaller cloves are not planted to increase the average size/bulb. Planting orientation also adds time to the planting process and it is a potential barrier to mechanized planting. Right now, we hand plant every clove to make sure the cloves are oriented properly. However, achieving this uniform orientation on a large scale with a mechanical planter would be difficult.
The variety we used for the trial was Music. The planting orientations used were 1) upright, 2) upside down, 3) belly up, 4) belly down. If you’ve ever planted garlic I think you know what I mean by “belly” up or down. We had 15 cloves of each direction. To test clove size, we sorted garlic into three groups based on clove size so we had small, medium and large cloves. We also tested cloves with broken skins, and cloves that had gotten discolored by sunlight. The results were interesting:
Planted upside down
Planted Belly down
Planted Belly up
Upside-down cloves did not affect yield much. There was less than 3% difference in weight compared to an upright clove. The most surprising thing was that cloves planted belly up performed 15% better than cloves planted upright. WOW! We were not expecting that result. Of course, yield is only part of the story as planting orientation also affects the bulb shape. Here are some pictures of the bulbs based on their orientation. The upside-down bulbs would probably be more difficult to market, though they make good troll heads.
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