|Here's everything you need to know about growing garlic
Garlic is an easy crop to grow in your garden – it’s fairly low maintenance and it doesn’t require much space. It will happily grow in a container on your patio, if that’s what you have available.
For the best results, you should buy garlic sets from a garden centre or supplier, rather than from a supermarket. A quality variety from a good supplier will yield delicious crop of fat, juicy garlic. You can plant many varieties outdoors in either spring or autumn. But for an interesting twist, try growing it on a sunny windowsill like a herb for its delicately flavoured leaves to use in cooking or salads.
|Hardnecks are a good choice if you want to harvest the edible garlic stem.
There are two main types of garlic: hardneck and softneck varieties.
Hardneck varieties produce an edible flower stem (often called a 'scape'), which can be used in salads and stir fries. These are a great choice if you want to harvest both the scapes and the bulbs.
Softneck varieties don’t produce the stem, but the advantage of these types is that the bulbs can be stored for longer than their hardneck cousins.
Here are some of the most popular hardneck varieties:
These are some of the best softneck varieties:
|Garlic cloves should be planted narrow end up.
Garlic cloves are best planted between November and April, although you will generally get a bigger and better crop if you plant in the autumn. In fact, many gardeners swear by planting before Christmas to get the best results.
But garlic bulbs are sold according to their suitability for spring or autumn planting, so check before you plant. Growing garlic from seed isn’t currently possible for home gardeners because viable seed is tricky to produce.
|Don’t grow garlic in soil that’s recently been used for other alliums.
Garlic shouldn’t be planted in soil that’s recently been used for garlic, or indeed for any other plants from the allium family. So if this is to be a regular crop, you’ll need to plan a rotation system.
When choosing a suitable spot, keep in mind that garlic prefers a position in full sun with well-drained, light soil.
|Garlic likes sun and dislikes water-logging, which should be kept in mind!
Garlic bulbs prefer light, nutrient-rich soil and they don’t tolerate water-logging, so dig in plenty of organic matter such as compost, well-rotted manure or recycled green waste before planting.
Carefully split the bulb into individual cloves and plant each clove just below the surface of the soil (about 2.5cm deep) with the pointed end facing up. Plant each clove 10-15cm apart in rows that are roughly 30cm apart.
|Horticultural fleece might be a good option to protect young plants from birds.
Birds love to pull freshly-planted garlic out of the ground so it’s a good idea to cover the area with netting or horticultural fleece after planting.
Garlic needs a cold period to grow successfully, but during the winter, if you live in very cold areas or your soil is heavy, then plant the cloves into module trays. Fill the tray with multi-purpose compost and place one clove 2.5cm deep in each module, covering the cloves with more compost afterwards. The trays should be kept in a sheltered position outdoors.
Grown in this way, the garlic can be planted out to its final position in the spring when the cloves have sprouted.
|Garlic is a versatile plant and can easily be grown in medium-sized containers.
You don’t need a massive garden to grow garlic; it grows quite happily in containers on a patio or balcony.
Containers will need to be at least 20cm in diameter and depth to allow for good root growth. Simply fill your chosen container with multi-purpose compost and incorporate some fertiliser.
Just like planting garlic in the ground or in module trays, plant each clove at a depth of 2.5cm and space them about 10-15cm apart. You’ll need to allow space for the bulbs to swell as well, so don't plant them too close to the container edge. Make sure the compost remains moist, especially during dry spells.
You can even grow garlic indoors on a windowsill to provide garlic leaves, which have a mild and aromatic flavour and can be added to soups, curries and stir fries. Harvest the leaves as required until the bulb has been exhausted. However, growing garlic indoors is not usually a successful method for cultivating good quality garlic bulbs.
|Weed regularly to keep your garlic happy.
Garlic is not very demanding. But it is vulnerable to being smothered by weeds as it doesn’t create much shade, so make sure you weed regularly.
You only need to water your garlic during long dry spells. If you notice flowers forming you can remove them or leave them intact; either way, it should not affect the swelling of the bulb.
|Garlic is usually ready to harvest in early summer.
Autumn-planted garlic will be ready to harvest in June and July and spring-planted garlic will be ready slightly later. Simply wait until the leaves have started to wither and turn yellow, and then loosen the bulbs from the soil with a trowel.
Be careful not to cut the garlic bulbs with your trowel as this will reduce their storage potential. Also don’t leave the bulbs in the ground too long after the leaves have withered as the bulbs are likely to re-sprout and may rot when stored.
Before storing them, lay the garlic bulbs out somewhere warm and dry. Any dry soil left on the bulbs can be gently brushed off. In good condition, garlic bulbs can be stored up to three months.
|Garlic is fairly low maintenance, but there are two diseases to look out for.
Garlic is normally trouble-free. But there are two diseases to watch out for: rust and white rot.
Rust appears as rusty-coloured spots on the leaves. Unfortunately, the only thing you can do is avoid growing garlic in that place for three years; there’s no cure for rust.
Garlic can also be affected by white rot, which decays the roots and eventually the bulb. Again there is no cure apart from crop rotation.
Growing garlic is pretty easy and the results taste unlike anything you’d get in the average supermarket. The main things to remember are:
So that's it in a nutshell, everything you need to know about garlic. Happy growing!
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