Same Family, Grown Differently

Both onions and garlic are members of the Allium family. Allium (derived from the Greek word for garlic) are high in beneficial sulfur compounds, giving them their distinctive flavour and aroma.  Shallots, leeks, and chives are also members of the Allium family.


It’s mid-June and my hard necked garlic has scapes and is almost mature enough to harvest. The cloves that I planted last November have spent 8 months in the ground absorbing nutrients. I’ll be cutting the garlic scapes (spikes that will flower and set seed) off today so that the plant will put its energy in developing large bulbs below ground, instead of flowers. The tips of the garlic plant leaves are starting to yellow, which at this time of year, is a another sign that the plant is reaching maturity.

The curl of a scape on hardneck garlic.

This is a garlic bulb maturing under a few inches of soil. I pulled back the straw mulch and soil to expose the white bulb just for the photo. I can just start to see the bulges of cloves forming, so I will not harvest the garlic bulbs until they have a chance to fill out more.

A garlic bulb maturing under a couple of inches of soil and straw mulch.

The garlic plot for 2018, approximately 125 bulbs in 100 square feet of garden space. The garlic cloves were planted in slightly raised beds, amended with a lot of compost, wood chip pathways and mulched with straw, to retain moisture and keep weeds at bay.

Leeks are similar to garlic in that they also produce tender white stalks below the soil surface. Onions, however, produce their bulbs above the surface. If you’ve ever grown a globe variety of onion that matured looking squished and flattened, then it was probably trying to swell up while under too much soil.

Young onions starting to bulb up in the June garden. Only the onion roots are growing below the surface so the bulb can swell easily on top of the soil. The area is mulched with grass clippings and one carrot? to the right..

This is a picture of Walla Walla Sweet Onions that I started from seed in April. They are ready to plant in the garden and you can see that the bulbs are already starting to form. When I transplant them, I’ll have to make sure that they are not buried too deeply which would prevent proper bulb formation.

Our sweet onion harvest in 2015 was awesome 😃 I hope to repeat it again this season!