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Old April 27, 2018   #1
bower
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Default How early would you remove mulch from garlic?

We've been having a little heat wave here, unseasonably warm for April, and pretty much a certainty that there will be frosts ahead in May - our last frost date is June 6.
I mulched all my garlic pretty heavily with unshredded maple leaves and draped with chicken wire - some had kelp mulch already, some got leaves only, and one bed I had no wire over, the leaves blew away in short order and so it had only kelp mulch. That 'kelp only' bed has garlic up and getting bigger every day. I also saw a few tips up near the edge of the other beds, but nothing has penetrated or come up through the leaves...
So now I'm wondering, should I remove the leaf mulch this early?
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Old April 27, 2018   #2
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Early in the morning.

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Old April 27, 2018   #3
ako1974
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I always mulch with straw and leave it. But I have also left on fencing too long and it becomes a pain when the plants grow and the necks thicken, especially at harvest time.
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Old April 27, 2018   #4
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Being that garlic can withstand sub freezing temps with really no issues, I would think that the benefit of the sun warming the soil would outweigh any cold nights you might get in May.
I got some yellowing/singeing last and this year when we went into the mid 20's a few nights in April, but last year's harvest was good from what I read is possible in pounds.
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Old April 27, 2018   #5
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The wierd thing is, the ground is still frozen in parts of the garden. But I just looked at the ten day forecast and I don't see a single temp below freezing... and you're so right, PH, there shouldn't be anything severe enough to hurt garlic at this point. With the kelp I feel like they're still having a little protection but in fact it shrinks up really quickly as the sun dries it.
Good point about the fencing, as well. I've done that before too and woe betide the gardener who lets stuff grow up through it!
I always just leave the kelp and they grow up through no problem, but these maple leaves are really matted down. Last time I used leaves, I intended to leave it on but kept finding it torn off by ??? Turned out to be ravens, looking for bugs or worms underneath, and they didn't harm the garlic at all. I was putting it back daily until I realized, well hey they are doing me a favor, it needs to come off.
So actually, Worth, good advice to remove it early...and in the morning. Even if I just removed the wire, I dare say someone will take those leaves out of it before the day is done.
The ravens and other birds are up to all kinds of shenanigans since the warm weather hit, and very attentive to what I'm doing in the garden re: pickins available! They're hootin out there this morning but the mulch will have to wait til it stops raining.
Thanks guys for the advice!
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Old April 27, 2018   #6
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Thanks again, guys! I went out after it stopped raining and took away the wire and the mulch. Here's a pic of one sunny bed that was piled high with leaves... they were up all along! And looking a little yellowed in part from being without light. So I'm glad I took it all away. In the beds where I planted 2nd year from rounds it is still cold and they're not up, but it was really wet ground under those leaves, so high time to dry them out a bit too.
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Old April 27, 2018   #7
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They look happy.
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Old April 27, 2018   #8
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Yes, reaching for the sun!
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Old April 27, 2018   #9
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Long ago I planted a few cloves of garlic. Something small; I don't know what kind. I've ignored it ever since. I use the tops but don't dig it up. It stays as a bunch of green stems almost all the time. No mulching here in Zone 6b. I'd swear it was there all winter. Is this not normal?

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Old April 27, 2018   #10
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Hard to say how important mulch is.. it depends on your climate and what kind of winter you had. I've had garlic that got lost or dried down in the summer before harvest time, and then came again the following year. I found some volunteers in a compost pile last year, thought I had pulled them all but here they are again - and down in the bottom corner, there's a patch of little ones coming from small rounds. I thought they were little leeks at first, but they curled their scapes and that means garlic. Not sure what kind they are but they were happy in the pile, surrounded by weeds... no mulch.
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Old April 27, 2018   #11
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Mulch is important to keep the ground temperature more even through the winter. Otherwise the ground can "heave". In other words it can rise and fall with warm and cold spells and push bulbs up out of the soil. At the very least it may move them around in the bed and you probably don't want that.
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Old April 30, 2018   #12
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I did also remove the leaves on the top of my garlic beds on Saturday, when it was first time since the snow has melted that I got to visit there. Siberian, Kolkja's Red Russian and Kolkja's Purple had the strongest and most shoots under the mulch.

When I planted the garlic last fall I did not have enough cloves to plant whole of the second bed. Even the ground is still mostly frozen it was soft underneath the black plastic, which had not been planted and mulched. So I planted 64 of the pre-sprouted Silverskin cloves from Rootrainers to the empty area. Those have already couple of green leaves and the temperature may still drop to -2°C during nights, but I think that the garlic plants will survive. I do still have some plants home, but since I did not know if the ground would have been soft enough, I did not take them with me. There is still room for 144 plants, so I will plant those next time I get there.

I think that garlic could have survived here the last winter without any additional winter mulch, since we had quite thick snow cover, when the temperature was below -20°Ć. I went to check the last years garlic plot in the middle of a field and found 16 nice sprouts, which I also transplanted to the empty end of the new bed. Those were such that were planted last spring and had produced only small rounds and the leaves must have withered before I harvested.

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Old May 1, 2018   #13
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Svalli those shoots look fabulous.
I had some thoughts about the survival of garlic that was missed in the field, vs the garlic rounds I carefully harvested and replanted. I think there's a benefit to the plants that were never disturbed, the ground around them wasn't too soft and they retained their roots into the winter. At least that's what I've been wondering due to less than 100% survival of planted rounds last year and before, vs the robust volunteers that were left by accident, and found to be surviving even without any mulch.
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