Garlic is botanically a vegetable, although it is widely known and used as a herb. It is an easy and satisfying crop to produce. In addition to its exceptional flavour and culinary uses, “the fragrant rose” is acceptable in gardening as an insect repellent and has long been used as a home remedy. Garlic is typically planted in the autumn and then harvested in mid-summer and planted again in the spring.
I don’t know about you, but we use garlic in everything that we can. I even don’t mind the smell of ‘secondhand’ garlic. I think it was from our time in Spain, where I believe everyone oozed garlic from their pores!
Let’s get to it…
The bulbs can be grown from seed; however, this technique is considered tedious and temperamental, apart from totally unnecessary.
Annual planting from cloves using individual bulb pieces is the preferred propagation strategy for commercial growers and home gardeners.
From your crop, use the largest bulbs for transplanting and the more modest ones in the kitchen to make delicious culinary dishes.
Purchased bulbs should come from your local or self-planted garden centre or trusted online nurseries, not supermarkets. When a garlic bulb starts to grow, the green stalks look different from the dry papery skin of the bulbs.
You could use the ones from supermarkets at a push. Be that as it may, they are regularly sprayed with synthetic substances to keep them from growing on store shelves. (That alone is a strong health reason to buy your own)!
Also, they have not been hand-selected for disease resistance, size, and other traits that growers need. Choose large, firm bulbs free of earthy coloured spots, weakness, or wilting and whose outer paper wrapper is still pristine.
You should remove any mulch that you have used to protect your planting when the danger of frost has subsided. Then, as it gets warmer, the shoots will poke up from the ground. You can, of course, plant the cloves in the spring, which is what most growers do.
Remove any flower shoots that emerge. These can reduce the bulb size.
Prepare the ground for the cloves in late winter by fertilising it with nitrogen-rich compost, such as bonemeal, chicken manure, or a locally purchased pelleted fertiliser. Then, prepare it again just before the bulbs begin to grow in prolonged sunlight. Weeds should not be an issue until spring. Still, keep the planting site very weed-free, as you do with the rest of your plot (hopefully).
Garlic does not do well with the competition from weeds; it needs all the accessible supplements. The plant requires adequate nitrogen levels. See our article on natural fertilisers. Treat more if you see yellowing leaves. Water your garlic crop every 3 to 5 days during the flowering period (mid-May to June). If the months of May and June are dry, water to a depth of two feet every eight to 10 days. Garlic does not like dry conditions. It will mean a smaller bulb size, which is not what we are aiming for.
Stop watering the plants a week or two before harvesting. Different growers have different general guidelines regarding the best and ideal time to harvest. The wilting of the leaves is only a presumptive guide. To decide if garlic is ready for gathering, examine a few bulbs in the ground by carefully scraping away the soil. Through the outer sheath of a developed bulb, you can feel the maturity of the cloves. Pick up the plant as soon as the bulb reaches an acceptable size and before the sheaths begin to break down or the bulbs begin to open. Unless a bulb is very heavily sheathed and the clove skins are flawless, the garlic will not hold up well. To accurately determine when to stop watering and when to harvest your garlic takes good judgment that comes with insight and experience, for which there is no shortcut or substitute Don’t worry – you will get a knack for it.
Check out the Growers Calendar, an excellent guide to growing your bulbs
Garlic doesn’t have any problems with bugs in the veg plot, nor does it have very many problems with diseases that plague other vegetables. Use natural pesticides to deal with these problems.
Tip: I always plant some garlic (or onions) next to my carrots as this confused the carrot fly.
There is an excellent website called The Garlic Farm which has numerous recipes. Check it out.
There are around a dozen varieties of garlic. Here are a few to choose from:
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