when we planted our garden a few weeks ago, we had two sets of returning garlic bunches as well as a couple new ones. Here you can see the bunch on the left that was in this bed, reportedly anywhere from 3-5 years. On the right are the two taller sets of scapes that indicate the new plants. Below on the far left are three sets of scapes that were bunched together in a pot, which we broke up to see if old garlic that gets separated will grow better than old garlic that we just let grow.
So far, as you can sort of see in these pictures (much better in the bottom one up close) is that I have given these scapes a hair cut. As it happens, I've done it three times now--cut them down to just below where they all split off. I've only given the new stuff a hair cut once when we transplanted, and it looks like it needs a new one soon.
I have absolutely no idea what most of this means. My instinct is telling me that the oldest batch is growing bulbs that are too close together, and they may be suffocating each other. Thus they are fighting for nutrients and, it being in high demand in the soil, they shoot up scapes to try to gather more from the sun and air. The newest bulbs, having more room, can get more from the soil and therefore need less from the air. Perhaps they are focusing their growth energy on making bulbs rather than scapes.
Hypothesis at this point is that we won't get usable bulbs at all from the oldest bunch. I'm undecided whether the separated bunches will be fruitful or not, though I have high hopes for getting exactly what we should expect out of the new plants.
Now I just need to figure out how to save garlic for planting next year to get good bulbs. I know you split bulbs in the spring and fall, so maybe in fall I plant my garlic for next year? I'm sure Uncle Google will know!
Are you raising any fun experiments in your garden this year? Anything you're trying for the first time and have limited expectations of success?