Growing Garlic

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a close relative of onions, leeks and chives a popular ingredient in cooking due to its delicious taste though from ancient times, the main use of garlic was for its health giving and medicinal properties. Garlic is very rich in Vitamin C, Vitamin B6 and Manganese.

Growth habits and planting needs

Select a site that gets full sun.

When choosing what garlic to plant the following link  gives an in depth description of all the cultivars and groups and is a great resource:

Garlic grows best on rich, very fertile, well-drained soil. Soil pH should be in the range 5.5 to 7.0. Test and amend if necessary adding lime if the soil is too acidic. Dig the soil over well and add well rotted compost.

As a root crop it should follow a fruit crop in the crop rotation system because it needs potassium but not so much nitrogen for its bulbs to grow properly

Garlic grows best when the temperature is from 13 to 24 C.  The potential yield of the plant depends on the amount of leaf growth made before bulbing starts.New leaves are not made once bulbing starts. Autumn (March/April) is the main planting time in Sydney. This allows the garlic plant to have a long  period for leaf growth before the higher temperatures and longer days in late spring cause new leaf production to stop.

IMG_20150822_115818-garlic growing in bed2
Young garlic growing

Break the cloves apart only when ready to plant and choose the largest cloves for the best results. Plant cloves so that the top of the clove is just below the soil surface.  Make sure the base plate points down and the tip points up.

Space the cloves 15 cm apart and make the rows 40 cm apart. Then cover the cloves with soil and water well, then not until the cloves have sprouted.

When the cloves have sprouted surround with a good layer of mulch to keep weeds at bay and to retain moisture. This is important because garlic, like other members of the onion family, have shallow, fibrous rooting systems and do not compete well with weeds. Removing the weeds also disturbs the fine roots just below the surface.

Use diluted seaweed extract every couple of months from mid-winter onwards and side dress with blood and bone mid winter.

Garlic requires even water availability to grow properly and does not like to be over watered and this will affect their storage quality.  Do not allow the soil to dry out during bulb formation but stop watering when the leaves die back, a few weeks before harvesting.


IMG_20151117_122456-garlic harvest

Garlic  takes about 8 months to produce a mature bulb. Harvest when the tops begin to turn brown, not when the whole plant has died down. If you gently scrape away the soil from a bulb you can feel the individual cloves under the skin when the bulb is mature. Lift the bulbs before the outer layer splits for best long term storage

Use a trowel to gently loosen the ground around the garlic and lift by hand trying not to bruise the plant.

After harvesting garlic needs to be cured. Hang the whole plant in bunches out of the direct light where there is good air circulation and allow to dry undercover for 2 to 3 weeks.

Do not break up the bulbs into separate cloves. Leave the roots on and don’t fully clean them of dirt yet, just clean off the larger bits of soil. When dry the skin of the bulb with become papery and the garlic will have retained its moisture and oils.

Select one good specimen to keep for planting next year.

When cured rub off any remaining dirt gently and rub off the dried roots.

Garlic bulbs will keep 6 to 8 months or longer if stored under good conditions.  Store garlic at a cool, stable room temperature. A temperature of 15 – 18°C (60 – 65°F) with moderate humidity and some air circulation is best. Hang the garlic in mesh bags or in paper bags.



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