Growing garlic: Allium sativum

Growing garlic: Allium sativum

If you commit to growing garlic, not only will you be rewarded with the most intensely flavoursome bulbs, but you will pass the ultimate test of patience!! Once planted, garlic takes approximately 8 months to grow before harvest. It’s a plant that takes commitment.

Let’s take a look at what garlic requires to grow and thrive in the garden.

  • Firstly, you don’t require a tonne of space to grow garlic, but you do need to designate the area you select for at least 8 months while it grows. Consider this if you’re going to use that space down the track. Your chosen area also needs to receive full sun.
 
  • Prepping your bed is essential for garlic, and ideally, you want to have it prepped at least 2 weeks prior to sowing your cloves. Sprinkle either pelletised chicken manure, or blood and bone over the bed. Then spread a 5cm layer of good quality compost (homemade is always best if you have it available) on top. Water this in well. Add mulch on top to retain moisture and prevent weed growth. If slugs and snails are an issue in your garden, omit the mulch.
 
  • When the bed is ready, it’s time to prepare the garlic cloves for planting. Whilst you can plant store bought garlic cloves, it’s advised to obtain garlic bulbs from a known source such as a seed retailer, or some you’ve been gifted from a friend from their garden. That way, you know how the garlic has been treated prior to planting. Divide your bulbs into individual cloves, retaining the larger cloves for planting (use the smaller ones for cooking!). Soak the cloves overnight in a weak seasol solution which aids in germination, helps to rid any unwanted microbes, and kick starts root development of the cloves. Dig a hole twice the depth of the clove and plant one clove per hole with the flat side at the bottom and the point at the top. Repeat with all cloves, ensuring each clove is about 15cm apart, and rows are 20cm apart. Water in lightly, finishing with pouring over the remaining weak seasol solution.
 
  • Don’t water too much before germination, as the bulbs may rot. After germination, watering a couple of times a week should suffice, depending on your location. You might need more or less if it’s hot or wet. Garlic likes moist soil, but not wet soil. Ease up on watering when the leaves begin to yellow. Provide a fortnightly feed of liquid fertilizer during the growing period to keep your plants healthy.

You’ll know when garlic is ready to harvest as the outer leaves will start to yellow and die back. When there are 4-5 green leaves left, your garlic should be ready. If you are unsure, dig one up and inspect the cloves to check the development. Harvest on a dry day, not when the soil is wet. Once they are harvested don’t wash them or remove any excess dirt, hang them upside down in a dry cool place until they are completely dried out, normally for a few weeks. Once the bulbs are completely dry, dust off any excess dirt around the roots and cut the roots back to about 5mm from the base. At this point you can choose to trim back the tops and store your garlic in a cool dark place, or you can braid your garlic together and hang it. There’s plenty of online demonstrations of garlic braiding if you choose to do this.

Other things to consider when growing garlic:

 Keep your bed weed free, as garlic dislikes competition.

 Planting time is typically March-April, harvest time is typically October-November.

 Good companion plants include lettuce, strawberries, spinach, tomatoes, brassicas.

 Fresh manure and compost can cause your cloves to burn and rot, so make sure to use aged

manure and compost.

 If cured and stored correctly, garlic will last 6-9 months depending on the variety.

 Use any damaged or bruised garlic bulbs first.

Written by Lauren Eather, @oaklea_veggiepatch

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