Growing Garlic and Understanding Acclimatization
Updated: Apr 5
Plant acclimatization is the process by which plants adapt to changes in their environment. This can include changes in temperature, light, humidity, or soil conditions. Plant acclimatization is important because it allows plants to survive and thrive in a variety of environments.
When garlic is purchased from a different location and/or different climate, it will need to go through a period of acclimatization before it can grow to its full potential. This is because the garlic will have been grown in different conditions, and it will need to adjust to the new conditions in order to thrive. The acclimatization process for garlic typically takes about a year or two. During this period of time, the garlic still grows well, but it will take one or two seasons of replanting the harvested cloves, for the garlic to become used to its new home.
It is important to note that the acclimatization process may take longer for garlic that has been shipped from a long distance from your location. This is because the garlic will have been exposed to different temperatures and humidity levels in its previous life. In other words, if you live in South Carolina and purchased garlic from Alaska, expect the garlic bulbs to be a little smaller the first year, larger the second year of replanting, and they should reach their full potential by the third year.
Plant acclimatization is the process by which a plant adjusts to a new environment. This can include changes in USDA Hardiness Zone, temperature, light, humidity, or soil conditions. Plant acclimatization is important because it allows plants to survive and thrive in a variety of environments.
When a plant or the plant's bulb is moved from one location to another, it will need to go through a period of acclimatization in order to adjust to the new conditions. This acclimatization process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on the plant and the severity of the change in environment.
There are a number of things that you can do to help your garlic plants acclimatize to a new environment. First, it is important to choose a garlic variety plant that is suited to the new environment. For example, if you are purchasing garlic bulbs from a dry climate to a cool, wet climate, you will need to choose a garlic cultivar that can tolerate the cooler temperatures and higher humidity. It is important to be patient. It can take some time for a plant to adjust to a new environment. Be sure to monitor the plant for any signs of stress, such as wilting or yellowing leaves. If you notice any signs of stress, take steps to address the problem, such as providing more water, fertilizer or organic compost material. By following these tips, you can help your plants acclimatize to a new environment and thrive in their new home.
Some garlic growers give up on a particular garlic cultivar after the first year without realizing it may take a year or two for the cultivar to get used to and adapt the new growing environment.
Plant acclimatization is a complex process that is still not fully understood. However, it is an important process that allows plants to survive and thrive in a variety of environments.
Garlic and Acclimatization
It often takes a year or two for newly acquired garlic strains to acclimate to your garden. This is called acclimatization. Acclimatization is the process or result of your garlic plants becoming accustomed to a new climate or to new conditions.
If you purchased large, beautiful garlic from a garlic farm last fall, and planted it, don’t be disappointed, if the large-diameter bulbs you purchased produce a garlic bulb that is quite smaller. It often takes a year or two for newly acquired strains to acclimate to your garden.
While they have different spellings, acclimate, and acclimatize mean the same thing. These words are most commonly used as meaning “to become accustomed to a new climate or to new conditions.” Acclimation is the capacity of a plant to adapt to a new location - a new environment - environmental changes within the lifetime of the plant. This ability to adapt, allows plants, such as garlic, to cope with the variation in conditions to which they are exposed. In other words, acclimation involves physiological, or morphological adjustments within the garlic plant that improve performance or survival in response to environmental change. For example, garlic plants have the ability to adjust their form and function to acclimate to some extent, for example, warmer versus cooler temperatures, lower or higher elevations, or higher versus lower light levels.
If you recently acquired seed garlic (garlic cloves for planting, also known as seed garlic) you may be wondering if the garlic plants will grow to their full potential in the growing year. Or, will it take multiple years of replanting the new generation of cloves - for the garlic to "get accustomed to" and acclimate to the conditions in your location?
GROeat Garlic Farm on Bozeman Montana. 13" of Snow on October 23.
"The real question here is, if you acquire seed garlic from another location, will the garlic grow to its full potential in the first year? Will this garlic, from a different location grow well at my new location, and will the plant reach full potential to produce quality large bulbs at harvest time? Is the concept of plant acclimatization scientifically factual rather than the garden version of an urban legend?"
Research on Acclimating Garlic.
Based on research conducted at the "Garlic Seed Foundation", they reiterated that when growing garlic, it really comes down to geographical areas and USDA hardiness zones. The "Garlic Seed Foundation" did trials of the same seed that were sent to ten unique parts of the country. The feedback received revealed that the first year was most challenging as garlic began to adapt to temperatures, new soil types, and unique weather conditions. Soil, elevation, weather, and other conditions often varied from where the garlic was "used to growing". In simple terms, if new garlic underperforms the first year and is small in the new location, don't worry and replant the larger cloves and by the second or third year, your garlic should be in a position if it works for you. Garlic typically takes 2 to 3 seasons to acclimate to a new climate, resulting in more vigorous growth and better yields in this time period. Saving some bulbs for replanting is very worthwhile. Not all garlic varieties grow well in all climates, so you’ll want to make sure the varieties you choose to plant are suited to your growing zone. Hardneck, Softneck garlic and/or both? Do your research to determine what grows best in your environment.
What are the Differences Between Hardneck and Softneck Garlic.
Hardneck garlic varieties are cold-hardy and do well in Zone 3, 4, and Zone 5. Choose these if your winters have multiple killing touches of frost, snow coverage, and freezing conditions. Softneck garlic is grown in warmer USDA Zones and is likely the right choice if you live in a warm climate. Softneck varieties produce a plant without a garlic scape. Their garlic stem structure is rather soft (as compared to hardneck garlic) making them easy to braid. Hardneck garlic requires vernalization (exposed to a period of cold temperatures) before or after planting. Cold temperatures stimulate garlic to sprout and develop a bulb. Even if you live in a warmer climate, there is a possibility you can still grow hardneck garlic, by storing your garlic in a cool environment for 4+ weeks prior to planting.
Softneck and hardneck varieties of garlic are so named because of their stalks. Softneck garlic is better suited to warmer climates such as California. Most softneck varieties may be rated for USDA hardiness zones 7-10. Softneck garlic (Allium sativum sativum) usually has all-white bulbs. Hardneck garlic bulbs develop underground, develop in response to their exposure to cold winter conditions, seasonal temperatures, and day length. Hardneck garlic begins to develop when days are 12+ hours long and the soil temperature is above 55ºF. If these conditions are not in place, growth may be slow or non-existent. If daily temperatures rise too quickly and temperatures stay too warm in the spring, the bulb likely will grow faster and may be very small.
If you live in the northern half of the United States, you can likely plant and grow hardneck. If you live in the southern tier of the United States, you’ll have better luck with a softneck variety. Before purchasing your garlic, learn about its specific environmental requirements, which can prevent problems caused by improper planting conditions. Hardneck garlic (Allium sativum ophioscorodon) is more likely to have hues of pink and purple. Hardneck garlic is also known to have a more intense flavor than softneck varieties.
Learn About The Garlic Cultivars you are Growing
The term "biological elasticity" describes a plant's natural ability to "get accustomed to" or acclimate to many environmental factors over time. If possible, talk to other garlic growers who have experience growing garlic. Learn from their experiences. Then, begin your garlic-growing journey and experiment with different cultural practices and varieties to discover the best combination for your operation. On this journey, keep in mind that If the scape is allowed to develop it will compete with the bulb for nutrients, resulting in a reduction in bulb size and quality. Once removed, scapes should be disposed of off-site to limit them as a source of disease inoculum. Just as important, keep in mind that Garlic is a weak competitor with other plants and does not grow well if it has to compete with weeds. Ideally, begin your garlic-growing journey with a weed-free planting bed. Use weed-free mulch and manure.
When a garlic bulb, made up of multiple garlic cloves, is moved to a new USDA hardiness zone, it will need to go through a period of acclimatization in order to adjust to the new climate. This acclimatization process can take anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on the plant and the severity of the change in climate.
There are a number of things that you can do to help your plant bulbs acclimatize to a new hardiness zone. First, it is important to choose a garlic variety that is suited to the new climate. For example, if you are moving a bulb from a warm, humid climate to a cool, dry climate, you will need to choose a bulb that can tolerate the cooler temperatures and drier air.
Second, it is important to understand that the garlic bulb will need time to learn and adjust to the new climate. This can be done by planting the bulb in a sheltered spot for a few weeks, and then gradually moving it to a more exposed location. It is also important to water the bulb regularly, especially during the first few weeks after it is planted.
Finally, it is important to be patient. It can take some time for a plant bulb to adjust to a new climate. Be sure to monitor the bulb for any signs of stress, such as wilting or yellowing leaves. If you notice any signs of stress, take steps to address the problem, such as providing more water or fertilizer.
By following these tips, you can help your garlic bulbs acclimatize to a new climate and thrive in their new home.
Here are some additional tips for acclimating garlic bulbs to a new USDA hardiness zone:
Choose a planting site that receives full sun and has well-drained soil.
Plant the bulbs at the appropriate depth.
Water the bulbs regularly, especially during the first few weeks after planting.
Fertilize the bulbs according to the instructions based on your soil test results.
Protect the bulbs from pests and diseases.
Monitor the garlic plant, grown from the new bulbs, for signs of stress, such as wilting or yellowing leaves. If you notice any signs of stress, take steps to address the problem, such as providing more or less water.
Jere Folgert is the owner of GroEat Garlic Farm in Bozeman, Montana. GroEat Farm is a small, sustainable family farm located in the beautiful Hyalite Foothills, in the shadows of the Gallatin Mountain Range. The hardneck varieties that they grow on their farm flourish, due to the combination of the cold winters, temperate summers, moist spring, and the dynamic alluvial soils, washed down from the Gallatin Range.