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Garlic Explained

When discussing garlic, you will often come across terms like hardneck, softneck, semi-bolting, bolting, strongly bolting, weakly bolting, scapes and more. These all refer to the way different cultivars of garlic grow. 

Basically, some garlics produce scapes (a flower stem) – these are known as hardneck, while others do not – these are known as softneck. 

Softneck Garlic

Those that do not produce scapes are some of the easiest varieties to grow as the leaves simply start to die back when the bulb is mature. Artichoke and Silverskin Group garlics fall into this category, although in warmer regions (northern Vic, SA and WA, NSW and Qld) and in some milder seasons, Turban Group garlics may not produce scapes either. 

Softneck garlics are the most commonly grown forms for large scale commercial production, partly because they can be more productive (all the energy goes into producing the bulb rather than some going to a scape and bulbils), but also because they are easier to harvest. 

Hardneck Garlic

Hardnecks produce a scape in spring or early summer which is smooth, round and solid for its entire length. To make it a little more confusing – hardnecks produce three types of scapes: 

  • one that produces a flower umbel at the top which contains bulbils (these are also known as bolting or top-setting garlic); 
  • those where the bulbils form in the pseudostem and plants don’t usually grow a complete scape and umbel (also known as semi-bolting). The Subtropical Group of garlics are semi-bolting. 
  • and those with a hollow scape, or no scape at all, but they can produce one in the right conditions. These are known as weakly-bolting and include both Turban and Creole Group garlics.  

Scapes – To remove or not to remove

Garlic scapes are the bud and flower stem of hardneck garlics. Leaving the scapes to fully develop can dramatically reduce the size of the garlic bulb. How much depends on the Group the garlic is in and where the garlic is being grown. 

Garlic scapes are a gourmet treat and well-worth harvesting and eating. Regardless of whether you are removing the scape for eating or to improve bulb size, they should be removed when the scape is still young and flexible and the umbel has not started swelling. Use secateurs to cut just above the point where is scape emerges from the leaves.

Growing Garlic

Garlic is both rewarding and productive, for more tips and tricks on growing, planting and harvesting visit our garlic page today.

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Shop Garlic

Grow your own garlic and avoid buying imported, chemically treated garlic from overseas. Diggers garlic includes organic and award-winning varieties that can be shipped Australia-wide. Browse the range.

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Growing your own garlic is easy and incredibly rewarding - for all the hot tips download our members only fact sheet here!

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