Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Growing Garlic

written by Gavin from The Greening of Gavin

I believe that garlic is one of the simplest plants to grow in your garden.  I also believe that once you have had fresh garlic grown in your own garden you will never buy garlic from the supermarket or green grocer ever again.  Never again will I eat rubbery garlic without any flavour imported from a foreign country.

You can too.  Growing your own garlic is simple, easy and very low maintenance.

Planting is also easy.  In my climate zone, (heat zone 4, cold zone 10), I plant just after the first full moon in March or April.  I find that the soil is still just warm enough so that the garlic shoots quickly and gets a good start.  Take a decent sized garlic bulb, either from your seed provider or organic grocer and pull off the individual cloves.  Only use the fattest cloves, as these will give you the largest bulbs.  Use the smaller inside cloves in your next meal.

When preparing the bed for planting, don't add any fertiliser to the bed if you did so in the summer.  You will get more leaves and smaller bulbs.  Plant the garlic in a bed that you had a very hungry crop before hand, like brassicas or tomatoes.

Make a hole with your dibber (I use a bit of old sawn off broom handle) about 2" deep (5cm) and then place each clove in the hold pointy end facing upwards.  Plant them about 6" (15cm) apart, so that you get good sized bulbs.  The closer they are to each other the smaller the bulbs.

Back fill the holes and water well.  Within about 4-6 days they will send up the first green shoots through the soil.  All you need to do is keep the soil moist for the rest of the season, and keep the bed weed free.

Around mid winter, I apply a couple of handfuls of blood and bone fertiliser to the bed and water in.  This gives them a boost as they are beginning to form the bulbs just before the start of spring.  This is what they look like after about a month and a half.

In late spring (depending on your heat zone) the stalks start to go yellow and fall over.  This is the sign that your garlic is ready to harvest.  I leave them to dry for about a week in a basket before I use them.

I once heard that you have to plant garlic on the shortest day and harvest on the longest, but in my climate, it is not the case.  Last year I harvested in the last month of spring.  Here is my harvest of soft-neck garlic.  I plaited them and hung them in the kitchen, where they have kept very well without sprouting.

This is the crop from only two bulbs of garlic!  I was well impressed with my efforts.  This year I planted out an entire garden bed, and not just two rows like last year.  I kept the six largest bulbs that I grew last year to plant out this year.  I should harvest about 60 bulbs of garlic at the end of this season, all being well.

We use garlic in our main meal just about every second day.  Garlic is such a flavoursome plant and very versatile in the kitchen. I don't know if it is a myth, but I have not had a cold since I started growing and eating my own garlic.  I have heard that it is something to do with the large quantities of natural occurring sulphur in the plant.  Oh, and I haven't seen as many vampires around in the last two years either! ;-)

So, in summary, garlic would have to be one of the easiest and most satisfying vegetables to grow in your garden each year.  Easy to grow, and it keeps for a good eight months if dried well.  Have you had much success growing this wonderful vegetable?