Garlic is part of the Allium family. It is related to onions, shallots and leeks. It’s an indispensable ingredient in most of our dishes, so it’s convenient to have around the kitchen. With many health benefits, it’s no wonder why we want to grow it.
How to Grow Garlic
Typically, a lot of people will grow their plants from cloves. You split a bulb open and plant those individual cloves into the ground, and then we allow those to grow throughout the year. Another way to grow it is from bulbils. (Bulbil’s are the little bulbs that grow in the garlic scape if left on the plant. They are usually referred to as garlic flowers).
Tip a small layer of gravel into the base of a pot, and fill it with multi-purpose compost. You can then plant the cloves about twice their depth in the pot and then water them. This pot can be kept outside all winter long, providing you lift it off the floor and put it in a sunny open location.
Some folks like to grow the plants indoors, so you can keep it in the greenhouse. however, bear in mind that the plants require between 30 and 60 days of temperatures between 0 and 10 degrees C or 32 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
You can get this period if you plant in October, November, or in the early spring, and this should give you enough time to get the cold temperature needed for the bulb to split into cloves.
When planting outside, choose a sunny open location that has well-drained soil. It doesn’t do well with acidic soils; anything below 6.5 can make the garlic prone to disease. You can alleviate this by adding lime to the ground a few weeks before planting. Adding some Growmore fertilizer as a balanced fertilizer at around 25 to 30 grams per square meter will also help. At the time of planting, dig in a few buckets of manure or compost to raise the organic matter in the bed; this will aid in water retention.
If you do not add this to the bed, then double the previously mentioned feed. You can plant your cloves outside in late October and November. It can also be done in very early spring. This will give the plants enough time that it needs in cold temperatures. Outside, it is planted with individual cloves. Break leaves from the bulb and only plant the best size cloves. Any cloves that are soft or skinny do not plant. Set these aside to be used in the kitchen.
Plant the cloves, ensuring you plant them the correct way up. The basal plate must be down, and a tip is facing up—plant cloves around 6 inches apart with at least 1 foot between rows. Plant the cloves making sure the tip of the clove is approximately 1 inch below the soil surface; however if you grow in sandy soil, you can plant garlic much deeper for a better yield. But do not do this with heavy wet clay soils.
There are two types of garlic – soft neck and hard neck. Hardneck has a much superior flavour than soft neck. But soft neck stores much better.
There is a third variety, and that is elephant garlic. The cloves are absolutely massive. This variety is much more like a garlic-flavoured leek though it’s very, very mild. But again, the size of these is massive, so it goes in a lot of delicious dishes, although it is much milder in flavour.
As discussed earlier on you plant these the same as the other varieties, only you don’t harvest them in the first year when planting the bulbils. This is a two-year process. Planting these bulbils will produce what’s known as a garlic flat in the first year. The second year, garlic flat will continue to grow into a full bulb, so don’t harvest these the next year. Please leave them in place. It’s a two year period.
But it’s an excellent way to increase your stocks without using all your cloves, so looking after it is relatively easy. However, because there’s not a lot of top growth, there are many weeds that grow. So I wouldn’t suggest hoeing around the garlic because if you happen to catch that garlic with the hoe, it will damage that bulb and allow the disease to enter.
Instead, weed that area by hand. Another way would be to possibly plant the garlic through a membrane or some black plastic which would help cut down the weeds. Water once a week during hot periods and once every two weeks when weather is not hot and overcast. Then, when you see that the leaves start to turn yellow, cease watering altogether because this is when the garlic is maturing, and it doesn’t need the water any longer. Then as the leaves continue to yellow and start the dieback, you can harvest your garlic.
Harvesting garlic is pretty much straightforward but don’t be tempted to pull on the garlic foliage. Instead, put a fork down alongside the garlic and gently lift them because you don’t want to damage those bulbs or they want to store.
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Here are some great recipes using garlic, from BBC Good Food