Growing garlic is really pretty easy as long as you take a little care and will reward you with robust flavoured bulbs for the kitchen. Garlic doesn’t like a soil that’s too acid so if this is the situation in your garden you can add calcified seaweed to raise the PH. After planting keep your soil weed free and you should be able to grow fantastic garlic.
Have a look at our ‘How do I grow garlic’ video below filmed with organic expert Klaus Laitenberger and for a recap of information please see our written tips below.
Here’s a step by step guide to grow the best garlic:
Garlic Varieties (All except ‘Solent’ & ‘Early Purple’ are Irish grown.
Hardneck varieties produce a flower stem or ‘Scape’ which is delicious used in a salad or a stir fry. Hardnecks don’t store as well as softneck varieties but have a stronger more pungent flavour. Hardneck varieties include: Lautrec Wight.
Softneck garlic varieties don’t produce a flower stem and have a much longer storage life than hardneck varieties, they are the types more commonly available in shops. Softneck varieties include: Vallelado, Solent Wight, Early Purple Wight, Iberian Wight, Provence Wight, Tuscany Wight, Elephant Garlic
When to plant garlic
There are two planting times for garlic depending on the variety, Autumn/Winter and early Spring. Garlic seed bulbs need a period of cold below 10 degrees C for at least 6 weeks for the individual clove to form a bulb. Plant between October and early April with Autumn garlic generally producing a bigger and better crop.
Prepare your soil well. Mix in plenty of good compost or envirogrind to raise the fertility of the soil. Many gardeners will tell you to space your cloves at six inches between plants but if you like bigger bulbs you can increase the spacing to 20cm. Make sure you plant in the sunniest part of the garden as garlic need full sun to thrive. Only but bulbs from a good source as ordinary shop bought varieties may not be suitable or carry disease which can be introduced to your garden. If you have a wet site with heavy clay soil grow your garlic in raised beds to keep them for getting waterlogged.
Break up the bulbs into individual cloves when you plant them and be careful not to damage or bruise them. Place the cloves in the soil 3-4 cm below the surface with the pointy end facing up. Only plant the best cloves and discard and damaged, thin or small ones. Remember that garlic needs a period of cold, at least below 10 degrees for a period of 6 weeks for the bulb to split into individual cloves. This is why garlic needs to be planted in the Autumn or very early Spring.
Spacing should be 25cm between rows and 20 – 25cm between plants. If planting Elephant garlic increase the spacing to 3 ft between rows and 12 inches apart.
Growing Garlic in Pots
Growing garlic in containers is perfect for gardeners with limited space on a patio or balcony. The pot you use will need to be at least 8 inches in diameter and depth to allow for good root growth. You can use a good multipurpose compost mixed with an organic fertilizer which is high in potash.
Garlic bulbs should be should be split into cloves as above and planted at a depth of 2.5cm at a distance of 10cm apart. Ensure the compost mix is kept moist and not allowed to dry out in dry spells. I like to use a length of plastic pipe to ensure water gets to roots properly as containers can be prone to dying out from below.
Pots should be left outside as growing garlic indoors is not recommended and rarely produces good quality garlic bulbs.
You will need to give your garlic a little care during the growing season. If the year is dry (shouldn’t be a problem!) make sure you water them through dry periods. You should, however should stop watering in the weeks coming up to harvest. Carefully remove any weeds as they appear but be careful as garlic has a shallow root system which is easily damaged. We recommend adding sulphate of potash to your garlic in February which will give the plant everything it needs to grow big, tasty bulbs.
You will know when your garlic is ready to harvest when the leaves turn yellow-brown. You are better to harvest before the stalks fall over (unlike onions) as the bulb will open and will be prone to rot in storage. Dig your garlic carefully and remove any loose soil, if the weather is warm and sunny leave on the ground to dry otherwise bring indoors to an open airy place. Don’t remove the garlic stalks or foliage as you’ll need these to plait the garlic and to keep it fresh while drying. The longer the tops stay on the garlic the longer it will stay fresh.