How to Grow Garlic

Garlic grows really well in the UK climate, making it a relatively easy and fuss-free crop. You can plant garlic in autumn or spring, although the varieties planted in autumn are often more successful and tend to produce bigger bulbs.

Home grown garlic bulbs can be used fresh or dried and stored. You can harvest autumn-planted bulbs from as early as May (spring-planted bulbs take a month or so longer to mature) and these young bulbs, known as ‘green’ or ‘wet’, are used fresh. Mature bulbs can be harvested around July to August. At this time of year the foliage above the soil surface will have started to turn yellow. The mature bulbs can be eaten fresh or they can be dried out and stored.

Garlic cloves are white, pink and purple, and range from strong flavour, such as Picardy Wight, to mild flavour, such as Elephant Garlic (which is actually a type of leek!) You may hear garlic described as ‘softneck’ and hardneck’. This describes the rigidity of the ‘neck’ of the central stalk. Chances are that if you usually buy garlic from the supermarket it will be a softneck. Softneck garlic is the easiest to grow, it produces plenty of cloves and stores well. Hardneck, on the other hand, produces fewer but larger cloves. They’re still easy to grow but don’t store as longas softneck varieties, but despite this, many garlic lovers believe that these varieties have the best flavour.

For best success, always choose to grow a variety that’s adapted for our climate. Don’t be tempted to plant garlic bought from a supermarket. These are for eating only and they’re not certified as disease free (unlike ours) and won’t grow in our climate.

Growing Autumn-planting Garlic

Some varieties of garlic are best planted as sets in autumn to be harvested in early to mid-summer the following year. It’s a crop- easy to grow from sets and rising in popularity all the time to use in the kitchen and to grow in vegetable plots.

Starting Autumn-planting Garlic
Choose a sunny site and soil that is well drained. Incorporating bulky compost into the soil before planting will increase fertility and nutrient levels as well as improve the soil texture to make it more well-draining but at the same time adequately moisture-retentive. Garlics do not thrive in acid soils so adding lime is advisable to raise the pH and create a more alkaline soil. Plant cloves of garlic 15cm (6in) apart about 5-7cm (2-3in) deep and if planting in more than one row 30cm (12in) between rows. Plant cloves are little shallower in clay soils, but if the soil is nicely worked and well-textured plant at 5-10cm (2-4in). Water well. Consider growing under black polythene, which suppresses emerging weeds. Ridding weeds by hoeing later in the season may damage the bulb heads neat the surface of the soil.

Feeding Autumn-planting Garlic
This depends on the soil preparation prior to planting. If you worked the soil in winter adding bulky manure to raise the nutrient levels and improve the soil texture, feed a balanced fertiliser at 25g per square meter (1 oz per square yard) just before planting and dig in. However if you are planting in clayey or un-worked soil, it pays to add a balanced fertiliser at a rate of 50-75g per square meter (2-3 oz per square yard).

Watering Autumn-planting Garlic
Adding bulky manure prior to planting improves the moisture-holding capacity of the soil which reduces the need to water. At planting give an initial good watering to the crop. Over the winter do not water and in the spring start to increase watering gradually, but aim water solely to the soil reducing water splashing onto the foliage. Garlic leaves are susceptible to fungal diseases which favours wet leaves.
When the foliage starts to die down and wither in spring, stop watering altogether.

Temperature for Autumn-planting Garlic
Ensure a sunny and, if possible, sheltered site to grow this garlic.

Harvesting and Storing Autumn-planting Garlic
Harvest from early-summer to mid-summer when you notice the leaves yellowing and withering, carefully lifting the bulbs with a border fork to prevent damage. Dry the bulbs off in a light, well-aired environment such as a greenhouse with open doors and vents. Allow a fornight’s drying in warm weather and a month’s drying in duller, wetter summers. Thereafter, detach and discard leaves. Store remaining bulbs in a cool, dry environment until you require them in the kitchen.

Best Varieties of Autumn-Planting Garlic - Garlic ‘Early Purple Wight’, Garlic ‘Provence Wight’

Pests and Diseases of Autumn-planting Garlic - Splitting bulbs (from harvesting too late), Leek rust, Onion white rot, Leek moth.

 

Growing Spring-planting Garlic

Some varieties of garlic are best planted as sets in spring to be harvested in mid to late summer. It’s a crop- easy to grow from sets and rising in popularity all the time to use in the kitchen and to grow in vegetable plots.

Starting Spring-planting Garlic
Choose a sunny site and soil that is well drained. Incorporating bulky compost into the soil before planting will increase fertility and nutrient levels as well as improve the soil texture to make it more well-draining but at the same time adequately moisture-retentive. Garlics do not thrive in acid soils so adding lime is advisable to raise the pH and create a more alkaline soil. Plant cloves of garlic 15cm (6in) apart about 5-7cm (2-3in) deep and if planting in more than one row 30cm (12in) between rows. Plant cloves are little shallower in clay soils, but if the soil is nicely worked and well-textured plant at 5-10cm (2-4in). Water well. Consider growing under black polythene, which suppresses emerging weeds. Ridding weeds by hoeing later in the season may damage the bulb heads neat the surface of the soil.

Feeding Spring-planting Garlic
This depends on the soil preparation prior to planting. If you worked the soil in winter adding bulky manure to raise the nutrient levels and improve the soil texture, feed a balanced fertiliser at 25g per square meter (1 oz per square yard) just before planting and dig in. However if you are planting in clayey or un-worked soil, it pays to add a balanced fertiliser at a rate of 50-75g per square meter (2-3 oz per square yard).

Watering Spring-planting Garlic
Adding bulky manure prior to planting improves the moisture-holding capacity of the soil which reduces the need to water. Only in dry spells, give growing garlic plants a good watering every two weeks, and aim water solely to the soil reducing water splashing onto the foliage. Garlic leaves are susceptible to fungal diseases which favour wet leaves. When the foliage starts to die down and wither, stop watering altogether.

Temperature for Spring-planting Garlic
Ensure a sunny and, if possible, sheltered site to grow this garlic.

Harvesting and Storing Spring-planting Garlic
Harvest from mid-summer to early autumn when you notice the leaves yellowing and withering, carefully lifting the bulbs with a border fork to prevent damage. Dry the bulbs off in a light, well-aired environment such as a greenhouse with open doors and vents. Allow a fornight’s drying in warm weather and a month’s drying in duller, wetter summers. Thereafter, detach and discard leaves. Store remaining bulbs in a cool, dry environment until you require them in the kitchen.

Best Varieties of Spring-Planting Garlic - Garlic ‘Picardy Wight’, Garlic ‘Lautrec Wight’

Pests and Diseases of Spring-planting Garlic - Splitting bulbs (from harvesting too late), Leek rust, Onion white rot, Leek moth

 

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