Garlic has to be one of the easiest vegetables to grow because you can simply direct sow into the soil, keep it weed free and wait until the summer for a wonderful vegetable that adds a superb flavour to home cooked food.
This ‘set and forget’ nature of garlic growing is why it was the first vegetable included in the planting plan.
But to truly get the best from your crop of garlic, follow this quick and simple guide for trouble-free garlic growing.
Assess and determine your soil type
Do you have clay soil or is it more free-draining?
The way to tell is to pick up some soil in one hand and try to form a ball about the size of a golf ball.
If the soil feels sticky like potters clay and keeps its ball shape then you’ve likely got clay soil.
If the soil texture is more crumbly and does not retain a ball shape then you’ve got a more free draining soil.
If you have clay soil plant garlic in the Spring because if you plant it in the Autumn you run the risk of your garlic seeds failing due to rot from all that wet weather.
If you have a more free draining soil then plant you garlic seeds in the Autumn. The garlic will withstand the freezing wet weather and a longer time in the ground will give it time to form larger bulbs and cloves.
Choose your garlic variety
Now that you know when to plant your garlic you can now choose which type of garlic seeds to buy: a spring or Autumn variety plus:
- a softneck variety: is the most common, produces larger bulbs and stores for longer after harvest
- a hardneck variety: produces smaller bulbs, more resistant to adverse weather and has a superior flavour
For something different there’s the option of elephant garlic which isn’t a garlic at all but a form of leek.
Elephant garlic form extremely large bulbs and cloves and have a much milder taste to conventional garlic which means they can be added raw to salads without overpowering it.
Direct sow the garlic into the soil
Once you get your garlic home gently remove the individual cloves from the central stem being careful not to bruise them. Place them pointy side up into the soil so that there’s about an inch of soil above them when you cover them over.
Plant seeds 10 centimetres apart in rows that are 20 centimetres apart and keep the area weed free.
For Autumn garlic plant from October, for spring garlic plant from Valentines Day.
Dealing with pests and diseases
The most common pests and diseases gardeners face when growing garlic are:
- Rust: these are orange spots that form on the leaves from around May
- White rot: a white fungus that forms on the bulbs and turns the leaves yellow and makes them wilt
When you first notice rust spots they will simply get more prolific over time and prevent the garlic from photosynthesising and thus growing into a fully formed plant.
There is currently no known way to prevent this from happening but you can lift one garlic out of the ground in summer to see if they can be harvested a little early with slightly smaller bulbs as a result.
At this stage the garlic can be dried and stored for use later.
When you lift a test plant and notice white rot then the entire crop needs to be destroyed and not composted. All alliums (garlic, onions, leeks and chives) should not be planted in the same area of soil for 10 years.
Yes that’s how long it takes to ensure future allium crops do not suffer the same fate.
The way to mitigate the damage from these garlic pests and diseases it to:
- practise good rotation
- provide plenty of space between each garlic seed when planting out
Good crop rotation can play a key part in successful vegetable gardening for all plants, not just alliums.
Now go and plant garlic the easy way
There you have it, the easy way to make sure that you garlic growing is a successful as it can be.
Remember that planting garlic in the Autumn is the ultimate way to get a head start on the season as Winter varieties will withstand the rain, snow and freezing temperatures.
No dig gardening can ensure healthy free draining soil year in year out and is perfect for planting garlic in the Autumn months.
The cold temperatures through Winter give the garlic the kick it needs to form good bulbs when you come to harvest in the summer.
Plant different varieties like elephant, soft neck and hard neck garlic varieties to see which ones your soil, garden can taste buds will accommodate the best.