Growing garlic problems

So my garlic in a planting box just look bedraggled and burnt up and flopping all around. As you can see, the problem clearly isn’t that they are too big. I am hoping it’s just that the chopped leaf mulch I used over the winter is settled too much. I am planning to put some hardwood mulch in thick to top up the box. Any suggestions from people with experience?

when did you plant them? I plant mine here in NYC between Halloween and Thanksgiving, pull in early July.

Ive tried planting garlic in the fall, but 80% of the bulbs get eaten/die from some sort of maggot. Eats the roots I think. So now I plant them in the spring and they do fine, maybe dont get quite as big as they should but thats not a huge problem.

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They start to look like this when they get closer to the harvest time. They stop growing and the stems and leaves are wilting when they mature. At this stage they will not grow any more. It seems like it is too early for the harvest, but I do not know specifics of your zone.

Besides when you planted them it would be good to know what the soil is like they’re in, also how much sun they get. It looks a little like garlic that isn’t getting enough sun, but if that’s not the issue and the soil texture, etc. seems okay, I would expect they need fertilizer or there might be a PH issue.

While Garlic is okay down to about 6.0, my experience is it does better when I add some lime and get the soil closer to neutral. Leaf mulch can push down the PH, sometimes quite a bit if most of the moisture is coming from rain which will be acidic as well. Tap water in most areas is buffered, so that can help it from getting too acidic, but in the spring if most of the moisture is coming from rain the PH can slowly lower. At a community garden where I have a small plot, I use leaf compost (leaf mold?) to lighten up the heavy clay soil, but always put in a good bit of lime and my garlic is doing great. A plot a few down from me where they are growing a ton of garlic had about half the crop get anemic and start dying. When I looked they had used the leaf compost to heavily mulch the bed where the garlic were failing. If it was me I’d pull off the leaf mulch, scratch in a little rapid lime into the top of the soil along with some blood meal, Gardnetone or other organic fertilizer before adding the mulch. It would be best to test your PH before all that, but I’ll admit I rarely test since I’m on the lazy side.

In my experience, yellowing of the lower leaves are an indicator of harvest time. Floppiness is an indicator of a silicon deficiency. Was there any already well-composted plant material in there to provide some in that bed? If not you can do a foliar of potas. silicate. Dr Reams used to say Ca is needed to ‘size things up’, but microbials are what makes it available. So either might be the issue.
They also look like they might need some more sun.


I grow garlic in raised beds here in zone 4-5 western Montana. I prepare the beds with a lot of compost, might add a little all purpose fertilizer, and turn everything in thoroughly. I set the bulbs in about two inches, which is on the deep side, but helps in the event of a hard freeze before snow covers it. I also put on about another inch of compost or other organic matter over that, and water very thoroughly. I avoid leaves, would go easy on wood chips, don’t mind straw or small amounts of grass clippings. Water and weed thoroughly until a couple of weeks before harvest, which is indicated by the leaves drying back; when three or four leaves are browning you can lift and cure and clean them. Don’t let them stand in the soil too lon g or the heads will “shatter”.

Garlic likes to be well spaced and does not do well with competition. It seems to do well with about 6" spacing, and of course good sun.

After curing for a few days (keep out of direct sun, avoid rain fall, and turn as necessary to expose all sides) they can be rubbed clean and stored. I cut off the root hairs and the tops, keeping them in smallish paper sacks in a cool dark pantry. If they are not exposed to below-freezing temperatures they’ll keep much better.

I do the same for shallots, except that I plant my largest cloves of garlic and for shallots I plant smaller ones. Planting large shallots seems to result in a cluster of small cloves, and planting small ones results in a few larger cloves. I think!

Let’s see if I can get a picture here of my garlic needin’ a weedin’:


We plant ours(Music) in Oct. in heavily enriched soil, well composted chicken manure, 2" deep and cover them with 6-10" clean straw. They are ready late July. I hang mine in a warm dry barn for a week and then trim them for storage, saving the largest heads to plant in the fall. This has worked very well for us. Remember to rotate away from other allium crops for disease control.

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@MisterGuy looks like garlic wasn’t planted deep enough and/or too much mulch in the spring. Remove mulch in early spring when growth starts.

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Looks great Mark. Just noticed my scapes are up. Time for some stir frying. :blush:

I heard that about multiplier onions (which i grow) so I guess shallots are in that same category.

Shoulda mentioned- that’s me shallots right in front of the garlic. I’m a little constrained in the weeding because those weeds are poppies, and if we time it well they won’t interfere too much with the alliums and do give us a nice show later on.


Lost all my garlic crop this year, (planted late last year). All but three are just gone. Found tunnels underneath the raised bed. Thinking of lining the bottom with chicken wire and trying again. Time for a spring crop.


That’s a bummer. I’d replant (softneck).

Ours is doing fine.