Garlic is one of those essential items when cooking in the kitchen. Used as a hero flavour or to bring out other flavours, it’s found in most savoury dishes. With the correct preparation garlic is low maintenance to grow and the cloves you grow can be sown again for next year. Here is our ultimate growing guide on how to grow garlic from clove to bulb.
Choosing your Variety of Garlic
There are 2 main categories of garlic which are soft neck and hard necks. Soft neck garlic prefers a warmer climate and hard neck varieties prefer colder climates. Hard neck garlic also tends to have more complex flavours. We grow Rojo (hard neck) and California white (soft neck) garlic. We have grown them for the past couple of years with great success. Another category of garlic called elephant garlic which we haven’t grown yet.
How do you Plant Garlic Cloves
Plant your garlic cloves in the full sun. We prepare the garden bed by adding some homemade compost, composted sheep and cow manure, blood and bone and organic slow-release fertiliser. Sow the cloves with a spacing of 10cm apart and rows 20cm apart. We make a hole in the soil with our finger knuckle deep (approximately 50mm) and plant garlic clove pointy side up, flat side down. Your garlic may take between 1 to 2 weeks for the cloves to sprout and between 6 to 8 months before it is ready.
When to Plant your Garlic Cloves
There are a couple of urban rules people go buy here in Australia, such as sow on the shortest day of the year, harvest on the longest day of the year. Others say plant on Anzac Day and harvest on Remembrance Day. We like to sow our garlic between March and April, we like to get into the ground once the weather starts to cool off but before it gets too cold.
When to Harvest your Garlic
Once the garlic scapes have appeared it will generally be 4-6 weeks after this that the bulb will ready, but not all garlic will produce scapes. So, look at the leaves on the garlic and you will notice the tops are still green, but the bottom half will start dying back. When this happens, gently dig the soil away from one of the bulbs. If the bulb looks a good size and the wrapper is tight, the garlic is ready. However, if the wrapper is damaged the garlic will need pulling right away. If it’s not ready, cover over again and check back in a few days. Once we have a few bulbs of garlic ready, we will harvest them all.
Caring for your Garlic
One thing we like about growing garlic is that if you prepare the bed well enough to begin with, it will mostly care for itself. We normally apply a fresh layer of mulch, sprinkle some blood and bone on and some organic slow-release fertiliser around September to October and prune any garlic leaves which are touching the ground. Prune garlic scape (the flower stem) off to direct the energy back into the bulb. Garlic scapes are edible and are a treat.
Common Problems with Growing Garlic
Garlic has been one of those crops that has been quite easy to grow without really any need to touch it. Last year we noticed a few plants ended up with rust on the leaves.
Rust is a fungal disease that cause orange to brown rusty patches or spots on leaves. To prevent minimize overcrowding, make sure they are planted in full sun and water at soil level. To control remove disease foliage.
Here are some other problem you may come across, but we haven’t yet.
These are a small sap sucking insect that you will find on new shoots or the underside of leaves. To control them wash them off with a hose or spray with a horticultural oil. You can also squish them with your fingers
Thrips are a very small flying insect that suck the sap from plants. Thrips are at 1.5mm long, so they are barely visible to the eye, a sign they are there is that they leave silver patches on the leaves. They also can infest the bulbs. The best way to treat thrips is to encourage predatory insect that will eat the the thrips.
Rotten Garlic Bulbs
This happens because the bulbs have become water logged. To prevent make sure the soil is free draining and avoid overwatering in the winter.
Garlic Bulbs not Forming
There are few reason why your garlic bulb are not forming. These are incorrect variety, harvesting them to early, a warmer winter than normal, to much nitrogen and garden bed not prepared.
How to Store Garlic from your Garden
Garlic can be eaten straight away but if you want to keep your garlic for 6-12 months you will need to cure it. We do this by pulling the garlic out of the ground tying them in bunches of 20 or so and hanging them in a warm dry place until the plant has completely dried out. Our garlic usually lives there until we are ready to use it. We also like to dehydrate our garlic and turn it into granules and powder for the ease of use.