Questions and Answers

Growing Garlic – Tips and Cheats

Seed garlic clove

Growing garlic is one of my favourite jobs in the vegetable garden, it is pretty much trouble free to grow and adds wonderful flavours to our home cooking. Homegrown garlic comes in a wide range of varieties with subtle differences in taste and strength giving a much broader choice than the standard shop bought bulbs.

I thought you might be interested in some answers to questions we are frequently asked on the Quickcrop site which I hope you will find helpful if you are interested in growing this very rewarding crop.

View Our Range Of Ready To Plant Garlic Bulbs Here

Dried garden garlic in a basketDoes garlic only grow in hot countries?
Garlic grows just fine in cooler climates like Ireland and the UK though many people assume it is only a Mediterranean crop. Garlic does need to be planted in full sun but there are varieties that are bred specially for colder, more Northerly gardens.

There is also some evidence that garlic adapts to local conditions. Keep the best of your garlic cloves for use as seed garlic next year to produce your own personal strain perfectly suited to your garden!

White Chinese garlicCan I plant garlic bought in the Supermarket?
Technically you can but with the following words of caution: Shop bought varieties can carry disease which may effect later crops, it is best to use certified disease free seed garlic.

You may also find white shop bought varieties were grown in much warmer parts of the world and won’t be well suited to your climate.

What is Elephant garlic?
Elephant garlic is not actually true garlic but is technically a variety of leek. Bulbs look very similar to garlic but are very large; one clove of elephant garlic can weight the same as a full bulb of normal garlic. Flavour varies from mild to strong, cloves are particularly delicious roasted.

Seed garlic for plantingWhen do I plant garlic?
Autumn planted garlic grows larger bulbs. It stands to reason I guess as the bulbs are in the ground longer than the Spring planted varieties. The time for Autumn planting is September till early December weather permitting. Garlic can also be planted in the Spring but make sure you use a variety suitable for Spring planting.

Why does garlic need to be planted in cold weather?
Garlic needs 30-60 days exposed to temperatures of 1-10 degrees celsius for the single clove you planted to form a bulb of new cloves. If the bulbs are planted too late in the Spring (when it’s too warm) they may grow as one single large clove.

Garlc sown in modulesDo I plant garlic direct in the ground?
Provided you have a well drained site garlic is planted straight into you garden soil. If you have a heavy clay soil which is prone to waterlogging in Winter grow garlic in raised beds to avoid cloves rotting in the ground. If you don’t have raised beds you can also sow garlic in modules or small pots which can then be planted in their final positions next Spring. Keep module sown garlic outdoors to expose them to low temperatures but move to a cold frame or unheated greenhouse if hard frosts are expected.

Can I plant all the cloves in a bulb of seed garlic?
Yes but the size of the cloves will effect the size of the finished bulb. I would avoid the skinny ones at the centre of the bulb and only use the more plump cloves from around the outside. Avoid any that look soft or damaged as they may harbour disease.

Planting garlic clovesWhich way up do I plant a garlic clove and at what depth?
Plant garlic with the flat end of the clove facing down, this is where the roots will emerge from. Plant up to 10cm deep on light soils but shallower on heavy soils with at least 2.5cm of soil covering the bulb.

What is the recommended planting distances for garlic?
Recommended optimal spacing when planting out is 17cm all round or 10cm between cloves in rows 25cm apart. I use my ‘Growgrid D’ planting mat which has a spacing of 15cm all round and produce excellent size bulbs. The advantage of Growgrid is you will have minimum weeding to do which is an advantage with shallow rooted garlic as heavy hoeing can damage roots.

Burnt wood produces potashDoes garlic need to be fed?
Garlic does well with an application of potash when planting. If you burn wood in an open fire, stove or have a garden bonfire you can work the fresh ash into the soil when planting. Do not use turf or coal ash.

Avoid adding fresh manure when planting; garlic is happy with a moderate level of soil fertility. An application of well rotted garden compost or ‘Envirogrind’ is ideal. If you have an acid soil add lime to raise the pH.

Freshly harvested garlicWhen do I harvest garlic?
Garlic is harvested mid to late Summer when the leaves start to turn yellow, unlike onions do not wait for the foliage to fall over. You are better off harvesting garlic too soon rather than too late as bulbs can shatter or sprout if left too long. Bulbs can be deeper than you expect so lift carefully with a fork. Once lifted handle gently as bruised or damaged specimens won’t store well.

How do I store garlic?
Dry garlic for 7 to 10 days outside preferably in a warm sunny position. If conditions aren’t suitable use a greenhouse, polytunnel or south facing porch with plenty of ventilation. Stalks can be plaited to produce a very attractive braid which should keep for 6-12 months if hung in a dry frost free position.

Where can I buy seed garlic for home growing?
I thought you’d never ask! From us of course! We stock a broad range of bulbs both for Autumn and Spring planting all available online on Quickcrop.ie, I include the link to our garlic and onion shop (which also includes Autumn planted onion sets).


    1. admin

      Hi George

      It depends what good quality organic seed garlic we can get. For 2018 we don’t have organic seed garlic as we weren’t happy with the stocks we got last year. We will be looking for new suppliers and expect to have new organic garlic varieties available for the 2019 season.

  1. Tony Stevenson

    Some of the garlic I planted in the autumn has produced flower / seed heads, should these be left to develop or should they be cut off ? And if so would I cut at the bottom of the stem (some are 2 /3 feet in height) or just cut off the flower head ? Thanking you in anticipation of your help !

    1. Andrew

      Hi Tony
      Which garlic varieties have you planted? Some produce scapes (the seed pods) and some don’t. You can remove the flower heads at the base if you wish, it is debatable whether it makes any difference but leaving them may result in smaller bulbs. Remember the scapes are a delicacy in themselves and are delicous lightly steamed and served with butter. Hardneck garlic varieties tend to produce scapes while softnecks don’t so it is likely you have a mix in your beds.
      I hope this helps

  2. Peter Robinson

    Hi, I planted some shop bought garlic back in November as it had batter to sprout. I started to dig it up but it has not formed many cloves, more of them area whole bulb, any reason why? I also note that it has a lovely peppery flavour but does not have much of a garlic flavour, more onion like? Any advice?

    1. Andrew

      Hi Peter. Usually if garlic does not split into separate cloves it has been planted too late and did not get adequate cold over winter but it’s difficult to say with shop bought garlic as I don’t know what variety it is. As regards flavour, garlic is not as strong when used fresh (or green) but becomes more pungent when it has cured. I also suspect the large, single cloves will be a milder flavour though I have not tried them myself.

    1. Andrew

      Hi Jasmine
      Technically you can grow shop bought garlic but more than likely it will have come from China which has a very different climate than we have. Also, it is important to ensure the garlic you plant is virus free. Personally I would always but seed garlic.

    1. Andrew

      Hi John
      Yes, you can plant cloves grown the previous year, ideally they should be from a spring planted variety.

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