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?


Kimberly said...

Yes! I planted some the autumn before last, pulled it the end of last summer. However...I was out the other day and saw a bunch of NEW plants coming up on their own. A few must have hid. I just left them for now.

Gavin said...

Hi Kimberly,

I had the same thing happen earlier this year. I missed a few bulbs, and they sprouting in the bed they were in last year. I transplanted them into the new bed and they are doing well!


Laura @ Getting There said...

Fabulous crop! I have tried growing garlic a couple of times, with no success. One time it was in a pot that had no drainage, so I guess the garlic rotted--and the other time I planted it directly in the ground and the squirrels dug it up. But perhaps it's time to try again.

Cat Lamb said...

I planted some 3 weeks ago and was astonished at how quickly (and strongly!) it sprouted. I was interested to read about how you prepare the beds to get the biggest bulb - will have to remember that for next time I plant.

The Younger Rachael said...

I love planting garlic. Its a success plant, for sure. It even beats radishes! I've heard its got to get cold for them to do well, so plant in the fall, harvest in spring. but you plant in spring, harvest in fall... no cold time. but, I guess it works planting in spring.

Darren (Green Change) said...

@Rachael: Note that Gav lives in the southern hemisphere, so his is planting in fall and harvesting in spring.

We grew stiff-neck garlic last year, and are still eating it. I need to get organised and plant some more out for next season!

The Younger Rachael said...

Thanks Darren -- I forget that many of the blogs I read are not N. Hemisphere places! So a cold time *is* needed.... We are new in our house and I didn't get anything planted till February, so I guess I'm looking at next spring before getting bulbs of garlic. We are quite far south (central Texas), so winter is only late Dec, early Jan. Oh, well, I'll be patient!

J said...

Thanks for this advice, Gavin - we've just planted our first garlic seedlings and can't wait until it's harvesting time!

Myra said...


I planted garlic last year and this spring have garlic sprouts coming up in another bed. Do you think these are from seeds self sowing and will they produce a bulb if left alone?

Hathor's Bath said...

I keep meaning to plant garlic, and finally managed to remember to put two measly cloves into the ground this year, BUT they are growing, and growing nicely, so hopefully by the end of this year I'll be able to plant a whole garlic bulb and never have to buy the stuff again.

Anke said...

I planted garlic last fall for the first time, and I'm happy to say it is doing very well. We're looking forward to harvesting and using it. It will definitely be planted again this fall since we all love garlic and it's many uses.

soonarmy said...

I think garlic is great to grow - partly because being a smaller crop you can squeeze it in between other things...last year I planted a few bulbs down the end of a row of brasicas as well as our main garlic crop. Ours went in 'late' but we still got a reasonable amount. Better write down to plant this year's crop soon (I'm in NZ so southern hemisphere like Gavin). And garlic is terrific for colds, like you said Gavin (whether to prevent or minimise) and the fresher the better! My dad chews it to keep an oncoming cold at bay. I put it in a water bottle as I find the fresh taste a bit much!

Paula said...

I'm so envious of your garlic plants. What a great harvest!

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