Garlic is one of the most useful, yet one of the most expensive by weight to buy. It’s pretty easy to grow and worth the effort to grow a number of garlic plants to have a harvest that will last you up to 3 months.
Garlic can be planted as a companion plant around roses, carrots, onions, radishes and spinach as an insect repellent, as well as to crush and use to spray plants as an all round insecticide and has a number of uses in home health remedies, particularly for relief of colds and coughs, parasites and digestive upsets. Best of all, garlic adds a wonderful depth of flavour to loads of dishes.
Seed garlic heads are sold by many organic suppliers. They include soft and hard neck garlic as well as garlic chives. These organically grown heads are preferred over just using garlic bought in the supermarket, as you will have a higher quality yield.
Soft neck garlic varietals will be able to be stored for up to 10 months, while hard necks are fine to about 3 months. Garlic chives have the best flavour when cut fresh to use straight away, or can be cut for use as dried herbs.
Plan to plant garlic in autumn and, if you get really hard frosts, it is best to plant 6-8 weeks before the first frost is expected.
However, as summer wanes, prepare your soil with compost and animal manures then, at least a fortnight before planting, break up the soil so its crumbly and keep moist.
When you are ready to plant, break up the garlic heads into individual cloves, without peeling the skin away. Use a stick or small digger to make 10 cm deep holes for each clove 15-20 cm apart, with about 30 cm between rows. Alternatively you can plant each clove in between other plants, allowing space to grow. Place the hard flatter side down, so it’s standing in the hole with the tapered end upwards. Backfill with the soil and firmly, but gently, tamp down. Cover the bed with sugar cane straw or similar mulch.
If you are using a pot , try to use a self-watering design with more than 30 cm soil depth. This will give the garlic enough room to grow its roots and the new bulbs, as well as help you maintain moisture in the pot.
Garlic loves moist and cool conditions, so, if it’s dry, water regularly or ensure that irrigation drippers are topping up moisture (10 mins x 2-3 times a day) when there is no or little rainfall.
It’s a good idea to write GARLIC on some wood icecream sticks and place them at the perimeter, so you don’t forget what you planted in that bed or self watering pot.
The growing period is long for garlic, so once spring is over and the weather is heating up again, wait until the leaves have yellowed and die off before lifting the garlic heads gently out of the ground or pot. You can dry these out somewhere warm and then clean off any soil, cut the leaves off and store these in a cool dry place on a rack if possible. Soft necked garlic leaves can be plaited and hung. These look amazing hung in your kitchen, ready for use. Keep an eye out for mold, but generally they will keep for up to 10 months. Hard neck garlic heads are fine to about 3 months.
Garlic is a valuable source of Vitamin B1 or Thiamine and Vitamin C and can be eaten raw or cooked. One of my favourite dishes is to add crushed garlic, slightly cooked in a frypan, to boiled and drained then mashed or crushed new potatoes, adding some olive oil , salt and pepper to taste and maybe some lemon to finish – yum!
So, it’s pretty easy to grow – give it a go this autumn!