Growing garlic from garlic

Contents

Garlic

Garlic is a member of the allium family. It is an ancient bulbous vegetable. Garlic is easy to grow and requires very little space in the garden. Garlic grows from individual cloves broken off from a whole bulb. Each clove will multiply in the ground, forming a new bulb that consists of 5-10 cloves. Garlic tastes great roasted or used as a flavoring in many recipes.

Garlic Varieties Available Exclusively at Burpee:

  • Garlikins “Green Garlic”
  • Northern Favorites Fall Garlic Collection
  • Southern Favorites Fall Garlic Collection

Where to Plant Garlic

Garlic should be planted in a spot not recently used for garlic or other plants from the onion family. Do not plant garlic in areas where water can collect around the roots, causing them to rot or become diseased.

Soil Preparation for Garlic

Garlic should be planted in a fertile, well-drained soil. A raised bed works very well. Remove stones from the top 6 inches of soil. Work several inches of compost or well-rotted manure into the bed, along with 10-10-10 fertilizer.

How to Plant Garlic

Planting garlic is relatively simple. Separate cloves. Space the cloves 4-6″ apart. Rows should be spaced one foot apart. The cloves should be planted with the pointed end up and the blunt end down. Push each clove 1-2″ into the ground, firm the soil around it, and water the bed if it is dry.

When to Plant Garlic

Fall Planting

Plant cloves in mid-autumn in a sunny location with rich, well-drained soil. Set cloves root side down 4-6″ apart in rows 1-1/2 to 2′ apart, and cover with 1-2″ of fine soil. In the North, put down 6″ of mulch for winter protection. Garlic may begin growth late in fall or early in spring.

Spring Planting

Plant cloves as early in spring as soil can be worked, about the same time as onion sets. Spring planted garlic should be put in the ground in the same manner as in the fall.

Mulch

After planting, lay down a protective mulch of straw, chopped leaves or grass clippings. In cold-winter regions the mulch should be approximately 4 inches thick. Mulch will help to prevent the garlic roots from being heaved out of the ground by alternate freezing and thawing. A light application of mulch is useful in milder climates to control the growth of winter weeds.

Spring Care

When the leaves begin to grow, it is important to feed the garlic plants to encourage good growth. A teaspoon or two of a high-nitrogen fertilizer that decomposes slowly, such as blood meal or Osmocote should be gently worked into the soil near each plant. If the mulch has decomposed, add a layer to help retain moisture and keep weeds under control. In late spring some garlic varieties produce flower stalks that have small bulbils. Cut these stalks off. This will insure that all of the food the plant produces will go into the garlic bulb itself and not the clusters of bulbils. In the month of June the garlic plants stop producing new leaves and begin to form bulbs. At this time you will remove any remaining mulch and stop watering. The garlic will store better if you allow the soil around the bulbs to dry out.

When to Harvest Garlic and Proper Storage Methods:

You will know when to harvest garlic when most of the leaves have turned brown. This usually occurs in mid-July to early August, depending on your climate. At this time you may dig the bulbs up, being careful not to bruise them. If the bulbs are left in the ground too long, they may separate and will not store well. Lay the garlic plants out to dry for 2 or 3 weeks in a shady area with good air circulation. Be sure to bring the garlic plants in if rain is forecasted for your area. When the roots feel brittle and dry, rub them off, along with any loose dirt. Do not get the bulbs wet or break them apart, or the plants won’t last as long.

Either tie the garlic in bunches, braid the leaves, or cut the stem a few inches above the bulb. Hang the braids and bunches or store the loose bulbs on screens or slatted shelves in a cool, airy location. You may want to set aside some of the largest bulbs for replanting in the fall.

During the winter months you should check your stored garlic bulbs often, and promptly use any that show signs of sprouting.

Each set (bulb) is made up of several sections called cloves, held together by a thin, papery covering. Before planting, break cloves apart.

Garlic Harvesting and Storage

In late summer, bend over tops to hasten yellowing and drying of tops. Then pull up the garlic plants and allow them to dry in sun a few hours. Spread out in a well-ventilated place until tops are thoroughly dry (2-3 weeks). Cut tops off 1-2″ above garlic bulbs, or braid tops together into strings. Store loose bulbs in a dry, cool, airy place in baskets; hang garlic strings.

By Pam Dawling
Although it is possible to plant softneck garlic in the very early spring if you have to, better yields are obtained by fall planting. And hardneck garlic is definitely better off if fall planted. In general, the guideline is to plant when the soil temperature at 4″ deep is 50°F. The usual time for thermometer readings is 9 a.m. If the year is unusually warm, wait a week. (Instructions from Texas A&M say: less than 85°F at 2″ deep.) We plant in early November, here in zone 7 central Virginia. In New Hampshire, mid-October is the time. The guideline for areas with cold winters is two to three weeks after the first frost and before the ground freezes solid for the winter. In California it can be planted in January or February.
If you miss the window for fall planting, ensure that your seed garlic gets 40 days at or below 40°F before planting, or the lack of vernalization will mean the bulbs will not differentiate (divide into separate cloves).
The garlic roots will grow whenever the ground is not frozen, and the tops will grow whenever the temperature is above 40°F. In colder areas, the goal is to get the garlic to grow roots before the big freeze-up arrives, but not to make top growth until after the worst of the winter. In warmer areas, the goal is to get enough top growth to get off to a roaring start in the spring, but not so much top growth that the leaves cannot endure the winter. If garlic gets frozen back to the ground in the winter, it can re-grow, and be fine. If it dies back twice in the winter, the yield will be decreased from the theoretical possible amount if you had been luckier with the weather. When properly planted, garlic can withstand winter lows of -30°F. If planted too early, too much tender top growth happens before winter. If planted too late, there will be inadequate root growth before the winter, and a lower survival rate as well as smaller bulbs.

Seed stock
Store seed garlic at 50-60°F. Avoid temperatures of 40-50°F during the summer, as this will cause sprouting before you are ready to plant. In other words, don’t refrigerate. We keep our seed garlic on a high shelf in the shed from June to November and the conditions are perfect. If you need to store the bulbs over the winter, aim for 27°F. If you are buying seed stock, it is usually recommended to buy from a supplier in a similar climate zone. Having said that, I’ll tell you that our hardneck garlic originally came from a bag of Chinese garlic bought at the wholesale produce market! We have been carefully selecting seed stock from this for about 20 years now, and it does great. Cloves for planting should be from large (but not giant) bulbs and be in good condition.
Quantity
A yield ratio of 1:6 or 1:7 seems typical, and makes complete sense when you consider you are planting one clove to get a bulb of 6-7 cloves. If you achieve a yield ratio of 1:12 you are doing very well indeed. Divide the amount you intend to produce by six to figure out how much to plant. For large areas 750-1,000 pounds/acre are needed for plantings in double rows, 3-4″ in-row, beds 39″ apart. Eight pounds of hardneck or four pounds of softneck plants about 100 ft. In the US, one person eats 3-9 pounds per year. If you love growing garlic, move to Korea, where each person reportedly eats 60 pounds of pickled garlic each year.
Popping the cloves
The seed garlic bulbs should be taken apart into separate cloves not long before planting. We often do this while holding our annual Crop Review, with the crew coming together to collectively make notes on the past season. This task is a good group activity. Twist off the outer skins and pull the bulb apart, trying not to break the basal plate of the cloves, as that makes them unusable for planting. With hardneck garlic, the remainder of the stem acts as a handy lever for separating the cloves. We sort as we go, putting good size cloves in big buckets, damaged cloves in kitchen buckets, tiny cloves in tiny buckets, and outer skins and reject cloves in compost buckets. The tiny cloves get planted for garlic scallions.
Pre-plant treatment
Fusarium shows itself as small brown spots on the cloves, yellowed leaves and stunted browned roots. I learned from Dorene Pasekoff that Fusarium levels can be kept down by adding wood ashes when planting and then possibly dusting the beds with more ashes over the winter. (Don’t add so much that you make the soil too alkaline.) To eradicate bulb or stem nematodes, if your seed stock could have these, soak separated cloves for 30 minutes in 100°F water containing 0.1% surfactant. Soak for 20 minutes in the same strength solution at 120°F, then cool in plain water for 10-20 minutes. Allow to dry for 2 hours at 100°F or plant immediately.
Crop requirements
Garlic does best with a sandy or clay loam with very good drainage and a pH of 6.0-8.4, with 6.8 optimum. Onion maggots thrive if the soil is alkaline, so it pays to watch the acidity. A rotation of at least five years away from alliums is a good practice to reduce the likelihood of disease. Generally 1-2″ of water per week during the growing season (not during the winter), is about right, until the leaves start to yellow and the bulbs start to dry down, when irrigation should be stopped.
Fertile soil with lots of organic matter and a full range of nutrients is needed to grow good garlic, and so is full sun. Most growers spread compost or soybean meal at planting time. Foliar feeding, although recommended by some sources, provides no gain in yield if the soil had adequate fertility at planting time. Also, it is technically tricky to get foliar fertilizers to stick on the waxy near-vertical garlic leaves – it tends to run off, so a good spreader-sticker is essential. And foliar feeding (or side-dressing with compost or organic fertilizers) is wasted after the fifth leaf, and certainly after the bulb starts to enlarge. If soil fertility is uncertain, northern growers may feed every two weeks in early spring until there are four leaves. In the south, spring is too late for foliar feeding, as garlic reaches a four-leaf size before winter. It is unwise to over-fertilize in the fall or the growth will be too fast and tender to survive cold conditions, and the storage life of the garlic will be reduced. So if your garlic typically reaches four leaves before winter, forget about foliar feeding and side-dressing.
Spacing and depth
We plant at 5″ spacing in the row, and 8-10″ between rows, usually with four rows in a bed. The beds are 3.5-4 ft wide. That’s 40 sq. in. each. 32 sq. in. is a minimum, and 72 is recommended for very large bulbs (which might win ribbons at the fair, but might not give you the highest yield for the area). Many growers plant at 6″ in-row. Research was done at Colorado State University Specialty Crop Program 2004 and 2005:
They found that 3″ was too close. The shading of one garlic by another reduces the yield. For best use of drip tape, you can run a length of tape and plant a double row, one row each side, with all plants 6″ apart in all directions, and 40″ or less between drip lines.
Cloves are usually planted with 1.5-2″ of soil over the top of the cloves in the south, and 3-4″ of soil in the north. (The deeper planting helps prevent too much top growth and also moderates the soil temperature the clove is growing in.) In Arizona, some growers set the cloves on the soil surface, then cover with 6″ straw. This makes for a clean crop and an easy harvest. Organic mulch can be added immediately after planting, or if you live in a colder area than we do, after the tops get frosted off. In Michigan, planting time is six weeks prior to the ground freezing, giving enough time for root growth only, to avoid freezing the leaves. Planting depth there is 6″. Avoid planting deeper than necessary, as you may get worse mold problems.
Do ensure the cloves are planted the right way up, if you are planting a hardneck variety! Hardneck cloves planted with the points down suffer a 30% reduction in yield. Softneck cloves can be planted any way up, so are easier for mechanical planting. Our method is to make furrows with pointed hoes, then lightly press the cloves into the furrows at the chosen spacing, using pre-cut measuring sticks. After that we pull soil over the cloves using regular hoes or rakes, and tamp the soil down with the back of the tool. Some other growers who also plant by hand make a planting jig to make four or more holes at a time in loose soil, rather than make a furrow. A clove is then planted in each hole and covered with the right depth of soil.
If you can’t squat to hand plant, or you are planting from the seat of a tractor, use a 3′ length of pipe to drop the cloves into the furrows. Dropped from that height, through a tube wide enough for the garlic to tumble end-over-end, the cloves will land the way they need to be.
I read a fascinating article in the Natural Farmer, Fall 1992: Grace Reynolds of Hillside Organic Farm in New York converted a Cole one-row corn planter on the toolbar of her tractor to plant garlic. She attached a long tube to the planter and an angel food cake pan to the top of the tube. She sets the tractor in crawler gear and walks behind it dropping cloves through the pan into the tube. She also added a mark on the turning plate in the corn planter, so that she drops a clove down the tube each time she sees the mark, giving a regular spacing.
No-till planting
There were efforts in Virginia in 2003-2005 to develop no-till planting methods for garlic, planting in the fall into a frost-killed cover crop. sorghum-sudan hybrid, lab-lab bean and sunn hemp were planted in the first week of August in raised beds. As soon as frost had killed the cover crops (October 24) the beds were rolled to flatten the crop residue, and garlic cloves were planted 5-6″ deep in holes made with a soil probe. (This seems surprisingly deep to me.) Some plots were then covered with thick straw. All were given organic fertilizers. The disappointing results were that no-till caused a 32-44% bulb loss, with sorghum-sudan by far the worst. So don’t reinvent the wheel on that one. The speculation was that the cover crop residues tied up the available nitrogen. Adding straw mulch was found to be beneficial, always.
David Stern in upstate New York successfully plants into oats that have reached 6″ tall. He cuts slots through the oats with a disc-furrower and plants the cloves in the slots. The oats continue to grow until winter-killed, and they continue to protect the garlic. Timing is obviously critical and site-dependent.
Mulching or not
We like to roll round bales of spoilt hay over our beds immediately after planting. We come back a couple of weeks later and free any shoots trapped by clumps of over-thick mulch. Then we leave it all alone until late February, when we start weeding (once a month for four months). Organic mulches in the south help keep the soil cool once the weather starts to heat up. It is also possible to add mulch after the garlic has started to grow. This is more difficult than rolling bales across the bed, but if you have planted while it is still warm and you want to allow the soil to cool before mulching, in order to prevent too much top growth before winter, this is an option. Myself, I would just plant later.
Organic mulches will protect the cloves from cold winter temperatures to some extent. It is also possible to use thick row cover to protect garlic over the winter, even a double layer of row cover in very cold areas – whether or not you use mulch..
Nurse crop
Yet another option is to over-sow the garlic plot with oats to hold the soil and reduce erosion. The oats grow in the early winter and then die at 18-20°F, and the dead plants continue to hold the soil in place. Because the oats are sown after the garlic is planted, this involves sowing oats much later than you would for a good stand as a winter cover crop. An alternative is to no-till plant into oats which are growing.
Weed control
As with all alliums, removing weeds is important. Yield can decrease by a phenomenal amount (as much as 50% in total). Because garlic is an overwintering plant in most regions, it will be necessary to kill the spring cool-weather weeds, and later kill the summer weeds.
Growers not using mulch will need to cultivate fairly frequently to deal with weeds. Hillers will deal with the between-row weeds and some of the in-row weeds, but be careful not to cover too much of the leaves as this will reduce yields. Many growers use hand hoes and those with mulch will hand weed. Keep the leaves in good shape as best you can – take care when hoeing or cultivating. Each leaf damaged or removed will cause about a 17% yield reduction.
Five applications of 10% acetic acid vinegar spray during the growing season has been shown to be a useful technique in controlling broadleaf weeds, but has no effect on grass weeds. Start when the garlic is 18″ tall and spray about every 10 days. Spraying from both sides of each row is the most effective. Wear a mask and gloves, as well as long sleeves and long pants when spraying this caustic strength of vinegar. It is possible to reduce labor by 94% using vinegar rather than hand weeding, so if broadleaf weeds are what you get, this is a good solution. See the 2004 SARE Grant report by Fred Forsburg.
Flame weeding
Growers who prefer not to mulch need to start weeding sooner. Flame weeding can achieve as good results as hand weeding using one-third of the labor. Flame weeding can be used for relatively mature garlic, but young plants (four or fewer leaves) are too easily damaged. The flame is directed at the base of the plants, in the morning, when the plants are turgid. Naturally, if you have used straw or hay mulch, flame-weeding is not such a smart idea!
Diseases and pests
The major diseases are mostly fungal: White Rot, Fusarium, Botrytis, Rust, Penicillium Molds, Purple Blotch, Powdery Mildew, Downy Mildew. Bacterial soft rots are also sometimes seen. Remove isolated moldy plants as soon as you see them. Always remove garlic debris from the field at the end of the season, or till it in and plant a non-allium crop. In summer, soil biological life is very active, and soil organisms will quickly break down the debris.
White Rot is most active below 75°F, and leads to yellowing and dying of older leaves, tip burn, and then destruction of the root system and rotting of the bulb. This fungus can persist in the soil for 10 years, and requires assertive action to reduce the problem. A clever trick is to spray garlic extract on the soil when the temperature is 60-70°F and you have no garlic growing. The fungal mycelium may grow and then die off in the absence of food. Several weeks later, garlic can be planted and will escape the rot.
Fusarium usually attacks plants that are under stress. In our garden it is the plants on the gravelly edge of the patch which get this disease. It grows during hot weather, with symptoms similar to White Rot, but slower to develop. The browning of the leaves spreads from the tips. Good sanitation and fostering strong plant growth are the main organic approaches to controlling Fusarium.
Botrytis symptoms include “water-soaked” leaves, and can lead to bulbs rotting, sometimes during storage. This fungus grows best (worst!) in warm wet weather. Good air flow during growth, curing and storage will reduce the chances of Botrytis problems.
Rust shows up initially as small white flecks on the leaves, developing into orange spots. Favorable conditions include temperatures of 45-55°F, high humidity but low rainfall, and low light. Stressed plants are the most likely to be stricken. Infected bulbs may shrink, yellow and die. Once again, good sanitation and rotations are the organic approaches.
Pests include nematodes, thrips, onion maggots, cutworm, armyworm, and mites. Weekly scouting is a good practice.
Nematode infestations show up as distorted, bloated, spongy leaves and bulbs, perhaps with brown or yellow spots. Top growth yellows and may separate from the root system. Farmscaping (planting flowers which attract beneficial insects which also feed on your pests) can work for thrips, which are on the menu for lady bugs and minute pirate bugs. Beneficial nematodes have been shown to be effective against onion maggots, and ground and rove beetles, birds and braconid wasps all prey on some life stage of the maggot. Row covers can exclude the fly (mother of the maggots).
The end of growth
The start of bulb formation (and the end of leaf growth) is triggered by day length exceeding 13 hours (that’s April 10 here in central Virginia on the 38th parallel), with temperatures above 68°F as a secondary trigger. Hot weather above 91°F will end bulb growth and hasten maturation or drying down. Therefore, it is important to get plenty of good rapid growth in before the plant dies back. In warmer areas, temperatures will thus exert a bigger effect on harvest date than in cooler areas, where the day length will have a bigger impact. For example, in Michigan, bulbing begins in mid-May, almost entirely triggered by the day length.
Garlic can double in size in its last month of growth, and removing the scapes (the hard central stem) of hardneck garlic about 3 weeks before harvest can increase the bulb size 25%. Watering should stop two weeks before harvest (one week after starting to harvest scapes), to help the plants dry down.
Pam Dawling is garden manager at Twin Oaks Community in Louisa, Virginia. The gardens provide the 100 residents with virtually all of their fresh and preserved produce each year.

How to Grow Garlic: Complete Guide

Do you love the scent of fresh roasted garlic in your penne alfredo?

Fortunately, garlic it’s reasonably easy to grow this herbaceous bulb in your garden. Plant it in the fall, and then harvest during the mid-summer of the following year.

Instead of buying your garlic at the grocery store, try growing it yourself. Homegrown garlic has an entirely different flavor profile compared to the diced stuff you get in a tub at the supermarket. Bring your cooking to life with authentic homegrown garlic in your recipes.

In this guide, we’ll give you everything you need to know about growing garlic this coming season.

When to Plant Your Garlic

It’s best to plant your garlic in the late fall or early winter months of the year. In warmer climates that don’t experience seasonal frosts, you can plant in the early spring. Garlic roots will develop during the fall and winter, before the soil freezes. In the early springtime, the bulbs will begin to shoot green foliage above the soil.

The timing for planting in each region of the country varies depending on the local climate. The idea behind planting your garlic early in the winter is to develop a root system before the winter sets in for the season. However, you don’t want the garlic to start producing top growth before the winter begins.

In northern states, it’s best to plant between September and November. Warm areas that experience mild conditions in the wintertime make it suitable for planting garlic in February or early March.

Garlic Growing

Tips for Selecting a Planting Site

We recommend that you choose a sunny spot in your vegetable garden to plant your garlic. Garlic enjoys growing in loamy, fertile soil with a pH of between 6.5 to 7. If your soil is sandy, then add some fertilizer and organic compost to the ground for Additional nutrients.

Garlic also grows very well in raised beds, as well. Remember to mulch the soil around the tops of the garlic every month to keep away pests during the growing season. The ground needs good drainage, as waterlogged soils will cause the onset of rot in your garlic bulbs.

If you decide to use raised beds for your garlic, make them 2 to 3-feet wide and 10 to 12-inches in height. Remember to lime the soil as well. Add a few teaspoons of bone meal to your soil, and then till thoroughly before planting your garlic.

How to Plant Your Garlic

Visit your local nursery and purchase some garlic seeds. Ask the consultant about the best varieties to grow in your area before you buy it. It’s essential that you don’t try and grow the cloves you buy from the grocery store. These cloves might be suitable for growing in different climates, and many of them come treated to preserve shelf life, making them more challenging to grow.

Buy some Garlic Bulbs or Seeds from Amazon

Select large, healthy garlic cloves that have no visible signs of disease: the bigger your clove, the larger and more robust the bulb. Break apart the cloves from the bulb before planting, but ensure that you keep the husk on the cloves.

Place the cloves in the soil, 2-inches deep, and 4-inches apart. Place the clove in the ground with the wide side facing down. If you want to plant in rows, then make sure they have a spacing of at least 10 to 14-inches.

Planting Garlic cloves

How to Care for Your Garlic

Gardeners in the northern states should ensure that they mulch properly and cover the cloves with some dry straw before the winter arrives. If the ground freezes, it will kill the clove’s root system. Layer straw and burlap over your beds before the winter comes if you live in an area that experiences heavy snowfalls,

Your garlic won’t need watering over the winter, and you only need to remove the straw and burlap after the last frosts fall in your area. As the spring arrives, you’ll notice the green shoots coming through the soil. Cut off any sprouts that develop in the spring, as they may decrease your bulb size.

Apply fertilizer to the beds in the early spring, and side-dress with a nitrogen-based fertilizer like blood meal or pellets. Fertilize the bulbs again as the summer season arrives. This strategy helps to maximize bulb size.

Remember to weed your beds and feed your plants more nitrogen if the leaves start to turn yellow. In May through June, water your garlic every three to five days, and taper off your watering toward mid-June.

Organic Bone Meal Fertilizer is perfect for Garlic

Pests and Diseases Affecting your Garlic Crop

Fortunately for gardeners, garlic is one of the few things you can grow in your garden that does not attract any pests. You can plant garlic to help you keep pests out of your yard as well. Garlic contains a natural polyphenol known as “Allicin.” Allicin acts as a natural anti-microbial, protecting the plant from disease.

However, your garlic bulbs can contract diseases if you don’t care for them appropriately throughout the growing season. The only real concern for garlic growers is the development of white rot. This fungus may attack the roots of your garlic in cold weather.

White rot will kill your garlic, and you’ll need to restore the ground by leaving it to rest for a few seasons afterward. White rot is a pathogen that overwinters in the soil, affecting next year’s crop.

Tips for Harvesting Your Garlic

When harvesting a fall panting, you’ll be pulling your bulbs anywhere between late June to early August. When you start to notice the foliage turning yellow around this time, it’s a sign that your garlic is nearly mature.

Harvest when the tops start to yellow and begin to fall over onto the ground. The best way to see if your crop is ready is to lift one of the bulbs and check. The head of the garlic should have divisions of cloves, and the skin covering the bulb will have a papery and dry texture.

If you pull your garlic too early, you’ll find that the covering is too thin, and it disintegrates shortly after pulling. If you leave your garlic in the soil for longer than is needed, it results in the bulb splitting apart, and the skin might split. Split skin attracts disease, and makes the garlic unsuitable for storage.

Don’t dig up your bulbs using a garden fork, as you might damage the cloves. Pull then out of the ground and shale off the excess spoil. Don’t rinse your garlic, store it dry in a root cellar. You can hang garlic in a string of 4 to 6-bulbs, and let it dry out in a ventilated room or root cellar with good air circulation.

Time to harvest your garlic!

Tips for Storing Your Garlic

Your garlic is ready for storage after the bulbs are dry, and the papery covering is easy to crush between your fingers. The root crown should feel hard, and it should be easy7 to crack the cloves apart in your hands.

Remove any excess dirt, and leave the cloves in the paper wrapper. Store your garlic in a root cellar at a cool temperature of 40°F. The cellar should be dark, with plenty of airflows. If you store your garlic the right way, it can last you for months.

Don’t store your garlic in the fridge as it turns soft and loses its flavor. As the garlic bulbs dry, the taste of the cloves intensifies. If you plan on planting another crop in the late fall for the following year, keep your biggest and best-looking bulb for new cloves to plant.

Recommended Garlic Varieties

There are three types of garlic available to plant in your garden. Each of them has unique characteristics and flavor profiles. In most varieties, the bulbs are ready to harvest 90-days after planting.

Softneck Varieties

As the name would suggest, this garlic variety produces a neck on the garlic that remains soft after your harvest. These are the types of garlic that you see hanging in stores in braids. This variety grows well in warmer climates. Softneck garlic varieties have a strong flavor and aroma.

Softnecks also grow larger bulbs because the bulb doesn’t divert energy into producing bulblets like other hardneck varieties.

Softneck varieties include “Inchelium Red,” “Silverskin,” “California Early,” and “California late.”

Hardneck Varieties

This type of garlic grows one ring of cloves around a central stem. There is no layering of cloves like you get with softneck varieties. Hardneck garlic is resilient to cold weather conditions and suitable for growing in the northern states. The hardnecks have a milder flavor than the softneck varieties, but they are more popular for use in cooking than softneck types.

Hardneck varieties include; “Duganski,” “Korean Red,” “Siberian,” “Chesnok Red,” “Spanish Roja,” and “German Red.” In addition to growing the bulb underground, the varieties also produce bulblets at the tips of the foliage as well.

Elephant or “Great-headed” Varieties – If you’re growing garlic for cooking, then stay away from this variety. Elephant garlic has a close relation to leeks than garlic, and it has a woody flavor.

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Garlic Production for the Gardener

Circular 854 View PDF picture_as_pdf

Wayne J. McLaurin, Department of Horticulture
David Adams, Department of Entomology
Taft Eaker, Department of Plant Pathology

Reviewed by Robert Westerfield

  • Garlic Cultivars
  • Garlic Culture
  • Crop Rotation and Location
  • Planting
  • Plant Development
  • Irrigation
  • Soil Requirements
  • Soil Fertility
  • Pests of Garlic
  • Harvest
  • Storage
  • Sources for Garlic Seed

Garlic (Allium sativum) is a hardy perennial member of the onion family. Garlic is probably native to Central Asia but has long been naturalized in southern Europe and throughout the world.

Garlic (Allium sativum) differs from the onion (Allium cepa), producing a number of small bulbs called cloves rather than one large bulb. Each bulb contains a dozen or more cloves covered with a thin white skin. Each clove is made of two modified mature leaves around an axis with a vegetative growing point. The outer leaf is a dry sheath, while the base of the inner leaf is thickened, making up the bulk of the clove. The larger outer cloves produce the best garlic. Garlic has flat leaves rather than the round hollow leaves of the onion. Garlic is used largely as a condiment and as flavoring in gravies, tomato sauces, soups, stews, pickles, salads, salad dressing and breads. Many cooks find it indispensable in the kitchen.

We can find written references to garlic from the writings of the Greeks, Egyptians, Romans and Chinese. The name garlic comes to us from the Welsh word garlleg, which is transformed into the English word garlic. Wherever it came from, there can be no doubt that garlic has captured the interest of gardeners and cooks alike. It is easily cultivated and, due to its growing reputation in health matters, will be of increased importance in gardens.

Garlic originated in Central Asia probably from the wild species Allium longiscuspis, and it does not occur in the wild as a species itself. While it is possible to propagate garlic sexually, all of the garlic commonly grown is propagated vegetatively. The current variation in garlic probably occurred through natural mutation. Because this variability is considerable, we conclude that garlic mutates relatively easily; over time it may adapt to new environments becoming somewhat different from the garlic originally introduced in an area.

Garlic Cultivars

According to some sources, more than 600 cultivars of garlic are grown. Most of them can be classified within one of two basic types: Ophioscorodon or hard-necked garlics (also called “ophio” garlic), and Sativum or soft-necked garlics. Hard-necked garlics, such as Purple Stripe and Porcelain, produce hard-stemmed flower stalks that bear aerial bulbils. Rocambole, a hard-necked variety, has a distinctive curled flower stalk. Soft-necked garlics, such as Artichoke and Silverskin, generally do not produce flower stalks. Each garlic variety has its own cultivation requirements and, to the discriminating palate, particular flavor. Hard-necked garlics may grow in Georgia but generally prefer the cold winters and long, cool springs of more northern climates. Soft-necked garlics are well-adapted to the more temperate climate of the South and, because they do not bolt easily, can flourish through the erratic temperatures of southern winters.

Following is a brief description of garlic types that grow well in Georgia:

Silverskin — Species Allium sativum; Subspecies sativum

Silverskins are the type most often found on supermarket shelves due to their very long storage life. They are the highest yielding variety and do well in a wide range of climates, from hot southern to wet maritime and cold northern climates as well. Plant growth is more upright than other types. Leaves are generally narrow and pale green. Silverskins rarely produce flower stalks in mild climates, but may when stressed by cold winters or drought conditions.

Bulb wrappers are fine and smooth, usually all white. Three to six clove layers are common. Total cloves per bulb vary from 12 to 20. Outer cloves are usually flat and wide, while inner cloves are tall, narrow, and concave. Silverskins have long been the most popular type for garlic braids because of the smooth, shiny skin, symmetrical shape, and easily manipulated tops. Silverskins are the last to be harvested and may lodge (fall over) a week or more before harvest due to their weak necks.

Artichoke — Species Allium sativum, Subspecies sativum

Artichoke strains are very vigorous and large-bulbed. Plants are shorter than hard-neck varieties with spreading rather than upright leaves. The leaves are broader than any other variety and a deeper green than most. While Artichokes do not normally produce a seed head, they often produce large bulbils that protrude from the lower third of the stem. When stressed, Artichokes can produce hard necks and seed heads. Cloves planted from these bulbs will usually revert to soft necks the following season.

Artichokes are named for their configurations of several overlapping layers of cloves, reminiscent of the true artichoke. Many artichoke strains have 3-5 clove layers containing 12 to 20 total cloves. Outer cloves are fat and roundish but irregular in shape, often with 3 flat sides and a paper-like tail at the tip. Inner cloves vary in shape from small, narrow, and squarish to small and round. Bulb wrappers are coarse and thick, often with light purple blotches or a yellow stain.

Some artichoke strains produce large round, symmetrical bulbs, while others have a knobby, asymmetrical appearance. Clove skins adhere fairly tightly, one reason for Artichokes’ longer storage life. Many Artichokes have a mild flavor, a characteristic preferred by those who eat their garlic raw for health reasons. A few strains, however, do produce a bite that can be intensified by cold winter growing conditions.

Elephant garlic (Allium ampeloprasum) is not a true garlic but a type of leek that produces very large cloves, often only three or four per bulb. Several small bulblets may also develop. It produces a large seedstalk that may be cut and used for ornamental purposes. The more tender, fleshy lower portion of the seedstalk is also prized as a stir-fried vegetable. Flavor is milder than garlic and can be slightly bitter. Elephant garlic grows under the same conditions as regular garlic.

Below is a suggested list of varieties you may wish to consider.

Artichoke (Softneck):

Inchelium Red: 4-5 clove layers with 8-22 cloves; bulbs more than 3 inches in diameter possible; mild lingering flavor.

California Early: 4 clove layers with 10-22 cloves; clove color tan to off white with pinkish blush; mild, slightly sweet flavor.

Chet’s Italian: 4 clove layers with 10-20 cloves; clove skins milk white or yellowish; mild flavor; severe cold gives it a stronger taste.

Silverskin (Softneck):

Mild French: 4 clove layers with 13-16 cloves; clove color varies from reddish-pink blush on yellow-white background to pink-brown; better adapted to hot dry climates; sharp taste when raw but simple, smooth, nutty taste when cooked.

Silverskin: 15-20 cloves per bulb usually in 5 layers; clove color off white to tan with pink blush; good producer of large bulbs; mild and sweet taste at first but can be hot.

Garlic Culture

Garlic is easy to grow in the garden. Late September through November is the time to plant garlic in Georgia. The plant is extremely frost hardy and, if planted in October, may have tops showing above the soil and be well rooted by November. The crop matures in the early summer. The growing period is too short for satisfactory yields if planted in the spring since bulbing and maturity will not take place when temperatures are high.

The reason that garlic is planted in the fall in Georgia is to permit full leaf development. As soon as bulbing starts, leaf initiation ceases. For highest yields, therefore, the cloves must be planted early enough to permit the development of large vegetative plants during the short cool days of late winter. The yield potential of the plants depends on the amount of vegetative growth before bulbing commences. Bulb growth and development in the garlic plant is favored by long days and warm temperatures.

Crop Rotation and Location

It is a good idea to practice rotation when planting garlic. Don’t plant garlic where onions or a member of the onion family has been grown previously. Plant garlic in full sun and in a well-drained bed with organic matter worked into it. Garlic likes well-drained soil, and the addition of organic matter will help even the hardest clay become more friable. Also, since garlic requires up to 8 months to mature, plant in an area where it won’t be disturbed.

Planting

Garlic does not produce true seed but is propagated by planting cloves, which are the small bulblets or segments making up the garlic bulb. Each bulb usually contains a dozen or more cloves; each clove is planted separately. Select only larger outer cloves of the best garlic bulbs for planting. The larger cloves yield larger size, mature bulbs at harvest. Do not divide the bulb until ready to plant; early separation decreases yields. Select “seed bulbs” that are large, smooth, fresh, and free from disease.

To plant garlic properly, dig a hole or trench, place the unpeeled clove gently into the hole with the pointed side up (the scar end down) and cover the clove with soil. Setting the cloves in an upright position ensures a straight neck. Approximately 2-3 pounds of garlic bulbs will plant 100 feet of row. The amount will vary depending on variety (number of cloves per pound), row width, and plant spacing.

Plant cloves 1-3″ deep and 6″ apart. Rows are usually planted 12-14″ apart. In colder areas of the state, cloves may be planted slightly deeper for winter protection. Mulching will help protect bulbs from severe cold and will help conserve moisture. Irrigate immediately after planting.

Plant Development

Matured garlic cloves planted in the fall go through a dormant period.

Garlic cloves require a period of 6-8 weeks of cool weather after planting (below 40 degrees F) to undergo vernalization (inducement to bulb and flower) by low winter temperatures. With adequate moisture and lower temperature, roots emerge and leaves sprout, and the plant goes through a period of vegetative growth. During the fall and winter in Georgia, cloves will develop their root systems and initiate some top growth.

The clove will swell considerably, forming a globular bulb with many fine roots. A pair of intertwined leaves will emerge from the terminal end of the bulb and will eventually break through the soil, depending on the weather and location. Emergence may be uneven. As the temperature warms, leaf development will accelerate with flat, dark green leaves on stems reaching a height of 1 foot or more. Keep plants well watered during this growth period.

Although vernalized (vernalization — subjected to sufficient cold in order to induce bulbing), no inflorescence or lateral buds (that later form the bulb) are developed until early spring with the onset of lengthening days and suitable temperatures. Proper bulbing is a function of adequate growth, vernalization, and subsequent growth under longer days.

As temperatures rise and day length increases, bulb formation begins. Do not apply any more fertilizer after bulb formation begins (see fertility). In June to early July, leaves will begin to turn brown and tops will fall, indicating maturity. Stop irrigation at this time to avoid bulb discoloration and bulb rots. To ensure bulbs are fully mature, remove the top layer of soil over the top of a few bulbs and check bulbs to make sure they are fully differentiated (division of bulb into distinct cloves). Digging bulbs prematurely can cause spoilage during storage, while waiting too long can cause disease and/or discoloration on the bulbs.

Irrigation

Garlic requires an even, consistent supply of water. However, too much will cause “wet-feet” and may cause bulb rots to occur.

Garlic is planted in Georgia at one of the driest times of the year. Thorough watering at planting time is needed to establish the planting.

In spring, keep garlic growing actively. According to the rainfall, garlic may need extra moisture in spring and early summer. Research in California has shown that water stress during clove development has been implicated in witches-brooming and small cloves.

Do not irrigate garlic once the tops begin to fall and become dry.

April and May is a critical period for diseases. Exercise care in disease control and irrigation. Water early in the day so garlic can be dry by nightfall, thereby reducing the chance of disease.

Soil type does not affect the amount of total water needed but does dictate frequency of water application. Lighter soils such as those in south Georgia need more frequent water applications but less water applied per application. The heavier soils of north Georgia need fewer applications but more water per application.

The same general rule applies to garlic as to other garden plants — 1 inch per week of water with good drainage.

Soil Requirements

Garlic grows best in full sun and a well drained soil. Also, garlic grows best on friable (crumbly), loamy soils that are fertile and have some organic matter. The soil must be kept evenly moist as dry soil will cause irregularly shaped bulbs. Heavy clay soils will also create misshaped bulbs and make harvesting difficult. Add organic matter, such as well-rotted manure or compost, to the soil on a yearly basis to keep it friable. Garlic bulbs will be small if the soil is excessively dry and irregular in shape if the soil becomes compacted.

Soil Fertility

Prior to planting, soils should be well tilled to provide a loose soil bed for bulb growth. Garlic grows best on well-drained soils with added organic matter. Sandy loam or loam soils have the most ideal texture for growing garlic. However, with the addition of organic matter, clay soils will produce garlic quite well. Also, a green manure crop tilled in a few weeks before planting is recommended to improve soil physical properties. Well-composted manure applied and incorporated at a rate of 100 lbs. per 100 sq. ft. is ideal as a soil amendment, especially on low organic matter soils. Drought or excessively wet conditions will reduce bulb yields. The optimum soil pH for garlic is between 6 and 7. Liming is recommended if the pH is less than 5.8.

Garlic grows well with medium to high amounts of fertilizer. As a general recommendation, apply three pounds of 10-10-10 fertilizer per 100 square feet. Follow soil test recommendations for your particular garden soil.

Nitrogen — Garlic has a medium to high demand for nitrogen. About one-quarter to one-third of the recommended N should be broadcast and incorporated in early fall before planting; use 5-10-15 or 10-10-10 or an organic source such as blood meal. The remainder of the N should be topdressed in the spring after shoots are 4 inches to 6 inches tall. In late February or early March, sidedress garlic with about 1 pound of ammonium nitrate per 100 feet of row. Avoid N applications after the first week in April to prevent delayed bulbing. Be sure to figure in the nutrient value of applied amendments such as manure or compost. Symptoms of nitrogen deficiency include a yellowing of older leaves and leaf tips, general yellowing of the plant, poor vigor and low yields.

Phosphorus and potassium — Take soil tests before planting to determine phosphorus and potassium needs. Incorporate all P and K fertilizers before planting. Symptoms of P deficiency include dark green to purple leaves and stunted growth. Symptoms of K deficiency include marginal scorching of the older leaves.

Calcium, magnesium and sulfur — Calcium and magnesium may be low in acid soils. The need for these elements usually can be met by using dolomitic lime and following lime recommendations. Sulfur is a major constituent of compounds believed to be involved with the medicinal qualities of garlic. Adding sulfur does not appear to increase yield, but there is active interest in determining how sulfur fertilizers may affect garlic flavor and medicinal compounds.

Micronutrients — Addition of compost or other types of organic amendments will help to ensure that micronutrient supplies are adequate. Most areas of Georgia, with the exception of the coastal plain, have adequate amounts of micronutrients available for plant growth.

Pests of Garlic

Diseases

Garlic is susceptible to most onion diseases, including botrytis, pink root, powdery mildew and purple blotch. Bulb rot can also be a problem in poorly drained soils. Good sanitation and long-term crop rotation is important to overcome these problems.

Insects

The onion thrip can be a major problem on garlic. Garlic gardeners should also scout for damage from cutworms, cabbage loopers and wireworms. In certain areas of Georgia, onion root maggots may be a problem. Check with your local county extension agent for appropriate control measures.

Weeds

Weed control is essential for proper development of garlic plants. Garlic has a very shallow root system. Like onions, it does not compete with weeds very well. Cultivation, hand picking and hoeing are the only viable alternatives for weed control. Cultivation should be very shallow to prevent root damage.

Mulch is another viable weed control option. Apply mulch after garlic has emerged. Prior to emergence, weed control should be by hand. Use 2-3″ of mulch over the entire area. Keep mulch 2-3″ away from the plant stem. As with any other plant, mulch might create an environment for disease if it contacts the stem and is kept too damp.

Harvest

Depending on the area of Georgia, garlic will be ready to harvest from late May to mid July. When garlic is mature, leaf tops will begin to dry, discolor and bend towards the ground. Harvest the garlic when 1/3 to 1/2 of the leaves have died back in this manner. Use a fork to loosen the soil and facilitate lifting the bulbs, thus avoiding stem injury. This is especially important if you plan to braid the tops. If harvesting is delayed too long after the tops have died back, the bulbs may rot.

Allow healthy, harvested bulbs to dry in the sun for several days. It is a good idea to cover the bulbs with the tops to prevent direct sunlight striking them. When the tops and bulbs are dry, especially at the neck area, you can cut the leaves off and store in a cool dry place. Approximate yield/10 feet of row is 4 lbs. With normal production, a home garden can yield a year’s supply for the average family.

Storage

The key to keeping your garlic fresh is to keep it in an dark environment where the temperature does not fluctuate radically and the garlic has adequate air circulation. Any cool, well-ventilated place will do for storage through the winter months. In very cold areas, the bulbs should be protected from freezing. A mesh bag full of garlic kept in a little-used cupboard or cold cellar is an ideal situation. Humidity should be around 70 percent.

When you are removing garlic for use, be sure that the remaining bulbs are not exposed to light as this will trip the bulb into growth, thereby lessening the length of time it will stay fresh. Also, radical changes in temperature may also cause the bulb to sprout.

Storing whole bulbs of garlic in the refrigerator is not recommended. However, you can store some garlic in the refrigerator. Break apart the bulb, peel each clove and then store them in a covered container (small glass containers work well). The cloves will stay firm for several weeks and you have a convenient supply of prepared cloves ready for use when you need them.

Always save the largest and best-formed bulbs for planting.

Garlic Braiding

A coil of braided garlic is decorative as well as useful. Just remember the rules for storing still apply: Hang it away from heat and light.

The ideal time to braid is when the garlic stems are half brown but still pliable — fresh garlic may develop mold because of poor air circulation around the bulbs in the braid. Soft-neck types are usually easier to work with because their stalks aren’t as stiff and thick as hard-neck varieties.

(1)(2)

You’ll need about 8 to 10 heads, natural jute or raffia (not string, which may contain creosote) to tie off the finished braid, and a flat surface to work on.

Start with three bulbs on a flat surface with the stalks facing you (1). Braid the three stalks together once or twice, pulling on the stalks so the heads are clustered next to each other (2).

(3)(4)

Lay the fourth bulb on top of the braided stalks just below the cluster of the first three bulbs. Place the stalk of the fourth bulb with the stalk that is in the center of the braid and bring the far right stalk from the bottom up and over all the other stalks. Take the stalk on the left and bring it up and over all the other stalks (3).

Now lay another bulb below the cluster of bulbs, letting its stalk rest with the center group of stalks. Bring the right section of stalks up and over. Continue to build the braid, adding one head at a time, and always bring the stalks up from the bottom (4).

Like all braids, you’ll have three streams, or sections, of stalks at any one time — it’s much like French-braided hair. By the time you add your last head or two of garlic, the braided stalks will be quite thick.

When the last head has been added, continue braiding the three streams of stalks, incorporating a few sprigs of dried herbs, if desired, until you have about 4 or 5 inches of braid below the last bulb (4). Tie off the end of the braid with jute or rafia (4). Hang to dry in a cool, dark area out of the light.

Aaron, C. 1997. The Great Garlic Book: A Guide with Recipes. Berkley, California: Ten Speed Press.

Behnke, Charles T. 1992. Growing Garlic in the Home Garden. Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet HYG-1627-92

Engeland, R.L. 1991. Growing Great Garlic: the definitive guide for organic gardeners and small gardeners. Okanogan, Washington: Filaree Productions.

Gough, Robert E. 1999. Growing Garlic in Montana. Montana State University Extension Service C-7 (Vegetables)

Gourmet Garlic Gardens – A Garlic Information Center. http://www.gourmetgarlicgardens.com/

Rosen, Carl, Roger Becker, Vince Fritz, Cindy Tong, Bill Hutchison, Jim Percich, Jerry Wright. 1999. Growing Garlic in Minnesota. University of Minnesota Cooperative Extension Service publication 7317. http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/cropsystems/DC7317.html

Stephens, James M. 1994. Garlic Fact Sheet HS-597, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/MV064

Sources for Garlic Seed

Filaree Farm
182 Conconully Hwy
Okanogan, WA 98840
509-422-6940
Email: [email protected]
www.filareefarm.com

Hood River Garlic
PO Box 1701
Hood River, OR 97031
541-386-1220

Irish Eyes Garden Seeds
5045 Robinson Canyon Rd.
Ellensburg, WA 98926
509-933-7150
Email: [email protected]

Johnny’s Selected Seeds
Foss Hill Rd.
Albion, ME 04910-9731
877-564-6697

Nichol’s Garden Nursery
1190 Old Salem Rd NE
Albany, OR 97321-4580
800-422-3985
Email: [email protected]

Paradise Nursery
10943 De Soto Avenue
Chatsworth, CA 91311
818-701-5656
Email: [email protected]

Peaceful Valley Farm Supply
PO Box 2209
Grass Valley, CA 95945
530-272-4769, 888-784-1722
Email: [email protected]

Seed Savers Exchange
3094 North Winn Rd.
Decorah, IA 52101
563-382-5990
Email: [email protected]

Territorial Seed Company
PO Box 158
Cottage Grove, OR 97424
541-942-9547, 800-626-0866
Email: [email protected]

Whistling Duck Farm
12800 Williams Hwy.
Grants Pass, OR 97527
541-846-0494
Email: [email protected]

The illustration at the beginning of this publication is from The Vegetable Garden Illustrations, Descriptions, and Culture of the Garden Vegetables of Cold and Temperate Climates by M.M. Vilmorin-Andrieux, Paris. English edition published under the direction of W. Robinson. Published by John Murray, Albemarle Street, London. 1905.

Status and Revision History
Published on Jul 26, 2002
Published on Feb 26, 2009
Published with Full Review on Feb 16, 2012
Published with Full Review on Feb 21, 2015

by Matt Gibson

Garlic is an essential pantry standby that everyone should keep stocked in excess, so you should consider growing your own. It’s a must have in the kitchen, but garlic has many other practical uses that may be surprising to learn. First of all, garlic is incredibly healthy. The main component of garlic is allicin, which boasts antifungal, antiviral, antibacterial, and antibiotic properties. Garlic is great for heart health, circulation, cholesterol balance, immune support, and lowering blood pressure. It is highly nutritious and low in calories.

Garlic can also be used to treat acne, cold sores, athlete’s foot and common colds. You can use garlic as a pesticide and a mosquito repellant. It can also be used as a glue and sealant, as a household cleaner and a surface de-icer. Garlic has been used by humans for hundreds of years for a variety of medicinal purposes, and folklorically, it is even believed to hold magical powers that can ward off evil spirits and vampires.

There’s no denying garlic’s usefulness as well as its ability to improve just about any savory recipe you can think of. It’s also incredibly easy to grow garlic right in your own backyard. The real question to ask is, why spend money on garlic at the grocery store when you can start growing your own at home? Here is everything you need to know to start doing just that.

Types of Garlic

There are two distinct types of garlic: softneck and hardneck. Softneck garlic is the type that you have most likely purchased many times from the produce department of your favorite grocery store. Softneck garlic grows in bulbs that consist of many cloves. The bulb is covered in many layers of skin that are similar to thin pieces of parchment. The outer layer of cloves are the largest as well as the strongest in both odor and flavor. The cloves become smaller in size as well as milder and sweeter toward the center of the bulb.

There are several different types of softneck garlic, the most popular of which are the silverskin and artichoke varieties. Silverskin garlic is known for being very flavorful as well as pungent. The cloves can be dried or stored in airtight containers, which will keep the cloves fresh for culinary use for nearly a year. Artichoke garlic is slightly milder than the silverskin variety, producing large cloves that can be kept for up to eight months. Artichoke garlic has fewer cloves per bulb than silverskin, and sometimes it has purple streaks or spots on its skin.

Hardneck garlic gets is name from the very firm stalk that protrudes from the top of the bulb. The hardneck varieties of garlic produce many tiny cloves, all practically identical to the parent clove. The four main types of hardneck garlic on the market are rocambole, porcelain, elephant, and purple stripe.

Rocambole garlic is easy to peel and has a rich and full-bodied flavor profile. Rocambole plants produce only one set of cloves, which keep for up to six months. Porcelain garlic produces four large cloves per plant and is comparable to rocambole in flavor. The cloves can be stored and used for up to four months after harvesting. Elephant garlic is often confused with porcelain, as they both produce very large cloves. Elephant garlic, however, has a very mild taste compared to other varieties of garlic, and it’s used in culinary settings as a vegetable rather than a seasoning, flavorant, or herb. Purple stripe garlic is excellent for baking, and this variety is recognizable due to the purple stripes that adorn its papery sheaths. Purple stripe garlic can be used up to six months after harvesting.

That’s a lot of garlic options to choose from, to be sure. If you are a true garlic lover, you may want to try your hand at growing all of these varieties so that you can experiment with each of them in the kitchen. If you’re just looking to grow the type of garlic that is most commonly found in the supermarket, artichoke is the variety you’ll want to look for. If you were to pick just one other kind to try, we’d recommend purple stripe for hardneck and silverskin for soft.

Growing Conditions for Garlic

Garlic requires full sunlight exposure and rich, well-drained soil that contains lots of organic matter. A sandy, clay loam soil is ideal, but garlic will grow in most soil types as long as sufficient nutrients and proper drainage are provided. Soil pH should be between 5.5 and 7.

First and foremost, it’s best not to try to plant cloves from a batch of garlic that you’ve purchased from the grocery store. These are often treated with chemicals that can keep the garlic from sprouting. Instead, purchase garlic seeds from a nursery, garden center, or trustworthy online source. Garlic seed can be a bit expensive, but keep in mind that each clove will produce an entire head of garlic and that the yields can be stored and used for extended periods—as well as dried and kept even longer if necessary.

Plant garlic in the fall, four or six weeks before the ground freezes, in a location that hasn’t recently been used to grow garlic or any other plants from the onion (allium) family. Prep the soil by loosening it to eight inches deep and stirring in organic, slow-release, granular fertilizer. Plant individual garlic cloves with all of their papery shells intact two inches deep, with the pointy ends facing upward. Place cloves two to four inches apart in rows that are 10 to 14 inches apart. A 10-foot row of garlic plants should yield a whopping five pounds of garlic bulbs in a growing season. Water garlic gently, and top the beds or containers off with a healthy four- to six-inch layer of straw or light mulch.

Though fall planting is recommended, garlic can also be planted in the spring following the same instructions as for fall. Plant garlic in the springtime as early as the soil can be worked.

Care of Garlic

Cut off flower shoots that emerge to prevent a reduction in bulb size. Don’t wait for the scapes to become too large before removing them. (You can snip them over food as a seasoning like chives or use in stir-fries.) Scapes should be removed as soon as they are four to six inches in length.

Garlic is a heavy eater, so you will want to feed your plants early and often with a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen throughout the growing season. Water every three to five days if there are no prolonged rains. Garlic does not like competition, so be sure to keep your growing site clear of weeds and any other plants that may compete with garlic for nutrients and water.

Harvesting Garlic

Homegrown garlic is typically ready for harvest around seven or eight months after planting. You’ll know that your garlic is ready for harvesting when the leaves begin to turn brown and the flowering stems start to soften. Use a gardening fork to carefully pull the bulbs up from the ground so that you don’t damage the roots in the process.

If your garlic was planted just below the surface of the soil, you may be able to harvest the bulbs simply by pulling the leaves upward, freeing the bulbs from the ground in the process. Once you’ve got your garlic harvested, check out our guide to storing it for future use.

Garden Pests and Diseases

As garlic is a natural pest repellent, there’s not much to worry about when it comes to bugs ruining your crops. Garlic is, however, susceptible to white rot. Unfortunately, there is not much that can be done to avoid white rot other than rotating your crops and cleaning up the grow site. If white rot is a problem in your area, you may want to try growing your garlic in containers so that large areas of soil are not contaminated.

Aside from white rot, keep an eye out for other common issues that plague plants in the onion family, such as botrytis, leaf blight, thrips, downy mildew, and purple blotch. Most of these issues will rear their heads due to insufficient drainage or overly rainy, waterlogged conditions.

Want to Learn More About Growing Garlic?

Are you a more of a visual learner?

Check out this in-depth guide to growing and harvesting garlic in the fall or spring:

This video is another comprehensive guide to growing garlic, but with a focus on fall planting:

Watch this video for a tutorial on how to grow, harvest, and store garlic:

Here are more helpful websites:

Farmer’s Almanac covers Planting Garlic
Better Homes and Gardens covers Growing Garlic: garlic plants, how to grow & when to harvest
Burpee covers Growing Garlic
Care2 covers 12 Unusual Uses for Garlic
Gardener’s Supply Company covers How to Grow Garlic
Good Housekeeping covers How to Grow Garlic
Grow A Good Life covers 7 Tips for Growing Great Garlic
Hudson Valley Garlic Festival covers Varieties of Garlic

5 Step Guide to Growing Gorgeous Garlic

Do you know where your garlic comes from? One of the most important reasons for you to learn to grow garlic is: to avoid toxic chemicals and irradiation (that inhibit sprouting and extend shelf life).*

Garlic … how safe is yours to eat?

A few years back I didn’t even think about the garlic I ate. But then I became interested in the story behind the food I was eating. I started to look deeper at the source of my food. Where it came from, who grew it and how. I didn’t like what I discovered!

Garlic – Did you know?

The majority of the world’s garlic is grown in China and is sprayed with chemicals and bleached white with chlorine during importation quarantine processes. Not to mention the thousands of food miles clocked up travelling long distances in storage.

But if you really want to gag on your garlic, read on! According to the CEO of the Australian Garlic Industry Association, “some garlic growers over there (China) use raw human sewage to fertilise their crops, and I don’t believe the Australian quarantine regulations are strict enough in terms of bacteria testing on imported produce.”

So you might want to think again before you reach for that perfect white bulb in your supermarket! .

In Australia, 90% of the garlic we eat is imported. Yet we have around 15 different garlic varieties available to grow that don’t need to be biofumigated with chemicals, like methyl bromide that have been banned here for domestic use.

Garlic is SO good for us … but not when it’s treated with chemicals.

4 Reasons you should Grow Garlic

  1. For health, amazing flavour + pest management in your garden.
  2. Safe food = avoid imported garlic – it’s cheap for a reason.
  3. Save money – organic garlic averages A$35-45/kg.
  4. It’s SO easy to grow, so there’s no excuse!

“Where you find garlic, you find good health.” – Old Spanish proverb

Garlic is a bulbous perennial herb but grown as an annual. OK – it IS slow growing (avg 6-8 months). But it’s NOT a bed hog like pumpkins and doesn’t take up much ‘personal space.’ So I’m happy to dedicate about 1m2 to grow garlic to feed my family for an entire year. It’s a member of the Allium (onion) family – all space savers!

Garlic is a staple ingredient in my kitchen all year round – for health and flavour!

Tutorial: 5 Step Guide – How to Grow Garlic

  • You can grow garlic in all zones. For higher yields and larger cloves, the best time to plant is generally Autumn in the southern hemisphere or Spring in the northern hemisphere. In Australia we usually plant March/April. Check Gardenate.com to see when the ideal time is for you. Don’t despair though! Garlic can be planted during the year, but the size of bulbs may be smaller. (When it tastes this awesome, you need less and it saves you so much money, so who cares?)

“To grow gorgeous garlic, all you need is a little preparation and patience – the results are totally worth it.”

  • In 2011, I didn’t get the chance to plant in Autumn. So I sowed a stack of soft neck garlic I had left in my fridge on 25 August (late winter). I harvested it exactly 3 months later on 25 November. This was a wonderful discovery! Even though I had technically planted at the ‘wrong time’ of year, I found a garlic variety that grows well in my climate. In a speedy 3 month period, rather than waiting an average 6 months! So experiment in your climate zone.

I harvested about 40 bulbs. At current prices/kg, this harvest would have cost me $80+ … money back in my pocket!

  • If you live in a high rainfall area, avoid harvesting garlic in the wet season, because bulbs can rot. Time your garlic planting for a warm, dry harvest period.

Benefits of Sowing and Harvesting Garlic by the Moon Cycle

  • I personally use this Moon Calendar to sow garlic on optimum root crop days of the month. My experiences have proved beyond any doubt that sowing, fertilising and harvesting garlic and other crops according to nature’s moon cycles certainly makes a massive difference. I’ve experimented many times over the last 7 years to see if timing really has any effect on sprouting, growth and bulb size. My results have confirmed to me that this is the ONLY time to sow and harvest garlic for bigger bulbs and a long storage life. Here’s an example:

Results from one of my experiments, comparing the difference timing can make by sowing garlic in the ideal moon phases for root crops

  • The photo above shows the difference in harvest results by sowing my garlic at different times of the moon cycle. After preparing my soil, I sowed 100 bulbs of garlic during the phase of the moon most suitable for planting root vegetables. Just two days later, ALL cloves were sprouting! That’s right – 100% germination.

Garlic and leafy greens growing in my kitchen garden

  • In the same soil right next to these cloves, I sowed another 20 cloves. Just two days later but NOT in the same moon phase. This was a dormant phase of the month when plants do the least amount of growing. This is a time of rest and low energy.

As you can see, these garlic bulbs from the first 100 harvest were perfectly formed and large for their variety.

  • The difference was astounding. It took over a month for those 20 cloves to sprout, even though I sowed them only 2 days later! Even more interesting was they were straggly plants that never caught up in size or harvest yield. As you can see in the first photo, the bulbs had very small cloves and the outer protective paper wrapping didn’t form properly. Their storage life was minimal so these cloves had to be eaten quickly.

Watch this video where I show you the results of my experiments

  • The 100 larger bulbs were harvested just 3 months from the date of planting. Whereas, the 20 poor quality garlic plants took nearly 5 months before they could be harvested. When I did, they were a massive disappointment. Nothing worse than waiting months for your garlic, giving up valuable garden space and having a disaster!
  • If you have a short growing season for garlic, timing can make a HUGE difference to your yields. I always harvest garlic in the correct moon cycle to increase bulb storage life.
  • The only difference was timing and planting by the moon. That’s why I get excited about working with nature’s moon cycle and sharing my experiences with you! The results speak for themselves. I hope you’ll try this simple technique to get a better garlic crop.

Step 1: How to Select and Prepare Garlic

Garlic doesn’t grow from seed but from mature bulbs separated into cloves.

Choosing Garlic Varieties

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  • Soft neck varieties braid and store well. They usually produce 12-13 cloves/head but have no flower stem and suit warm climates with mild winters. One of the best varieties for our subtropical Queensland zone is ‘Glen Large’. I’ve also grown ‘Early Italian Purple’ and ‘Italian Pink’ successfully as well as a few others.
  • Hard neck garlic types send up a hard, flowering stem. So these varieties are less suitable for braiding. They are milder tasting, but have a shorter shelf life. This is because they have less layers of skin around the bulb.
  • Elephant or Russian garlic is not a true garlic. This kind of garlic is also known as a bulbing leek and has a milder flavour. Select varieties that grow well in your local climate zone.

Try different varieties of garlic that suit your climate. Early and late plantings help stagger the harvest.

Where to Buy Garlic

  • Source locally grown organic garlic from organic growers and shops, online and farmers markets if you can. If that’s not possible, then look for heirloom and non-GMO varieties suited to your climate online.

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How to Select Garlic Bulbs

  • If buying garlic from a store, choose your bulbs carefully. Pick the largest garlic bulbs you can find. The size of the cloves you plant will determine whether you get big or small heads when you harvest.

Use the smallest internal cloves (those less than 1 gram in weight) for cooking rather than planting.

  • If you’re planting garlic from bulbs you have harvested last season, save your larger ones for this year’s crop. Make sure there are no signs of disease, marks or soft spots. Quality matters! Count roughly how many cloves/bulb to determine how many bulbs you need to buy for planting.
  • How many? How much do you eat?! We eat a lot of garlic. So I plant enough to have at least one bulb every week of the year (52 + a few extras as a buffer). Each clove grows 1 bulb. On average I plant 100-120/year. That gives me some to eat, save for next season and sell.

How to Prepare your Garlic Bulbs for Sowing

  • Plan ahead for when you want to grow garlic. Chill garlic cloves in the fridge for a few weeks before planting. This improves bulb development. You can skip this step but it helps grow bigger garlic.
  • To prevent rotting in the soil, here’s a little tip: soak your cloves in a glass jar with equal quantities of baking soda to organic liquid seaweed for 2 hours. e.g. for 8-10 cloves (1 average bulb) = 1 tblspn baking soda: 1 tblspn seaweed. Increase quantity depending on number of cloves you’re planting.

This is how to prepare your garlic cloves for planting and to prevent rot

Step 2: How to Prepare your Pot or Garden Bed

  • Soil test with a pH tester or kit. Garlic prefers soil with a pH 6.5 – 7.0.

If you need to raise your soil pH, consider adding dolomite or agricultural lime.

  • Likes: Full sun position; well-drained, humus-rich soil (add worm castings, homemade compost, humus, well rotted manure or blood & bone) plus a balance of nutrients (I use a complete organic fertiliser that includes rock minerals). Because garlic is a hungry root crop, the soil needs to be light and fluffy. So turn it over gently if needed and mix your fertiliser in well first. Alternatively make your own nutrient-rich potting mix like I do and grow in containers.

If you have limited space, grow garlic in shallow pots in nutrient-rich potting mix, like I do!

  • Garlic LOVES mulch to prevent weeds, provide protection, maintain soil moisture and keep soil cool longer.
  • Companion Planting: Garlic helps improve the health and growth of other plants including raspberries, beetroot, strawberries, tomatoes, lettuce, summer savoury and roses. On the flip side, never plant garlic near peas or beans. I’ve seen this in practice (even with chives and spring onions near bean plants). They just won’t be friends as they compete, so don’t waste your time and money!

Garlic is a member of the Allium family (onions, leeks, chives, shallots) so companion planting rules apply to all those family members.

  • Location: Good crop rotation practices help prevent diseases so avoid planting garlic where you’ve grown members of the Allium family in the last couple of years. If you have to reuse a pot, add fresh potting mix.

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Step 3: How to Plant Garlic

  • Timing: Ideally during autumn. .
  • Separate the garlic head into individual cloves just before planting. Largest cloves will be around the outside and are ideal for planting. Small inner cloves can be used for cooking.

If garlic cloves are sprouting they’re ready for planting!

  • Be gentle to avoid bruising the garlic. Cuts and bruises can provide entry points for rot to set in.
  • Sowing: Make a hole with your finger or the handle of your trowel roughly twice the depth of the clove (about 5cm/2in) and 10cm/4in apart.

Plant each clove with the pointed end facing upwards.

  • Press down very firmly as you back fill with soil (to avoid the cloves being pushed out after a few days as the roots start to develop). Check at this stage and reposition them back into line! Water in well with liquid seaweed. When the shoots are about 5cm/2in high, add mulch thickly to suppress weeds.
  • Distance between rows: 30cm/12in. Yields: 1m2/3ft2 can produce 52 garlic bulbs – one for every week of the year.

You can grow a lot of garlic in a small space – perfect for urban gardens.

  • Container planting: Garlic grows 40-60cm/15-24in high depending on the variety and although you may not get as large bulbs in a pot, they are most definitely worth growing. As they are a long growing crop, interplant with fast growing lettuces and leafy greens around the outside. Pot depth should be at least 15cm/6in.

How to Plant Garlic in a Container

Step 4: How to Fertilise Garlic

  • The new shoots will appear and when they are about 15cm tall, it’s time to fertilise again with liquid nutrients.

  • Every 2 weeks, I use seaweed or fish emulsion + a slurp of molasses in a watering can. Or sometimes I water in with worm juice (liquid from my worm farm) or compost tea. A sprinkle of worm castings or compost and minerals under the mulch can also help boost soil nutrition. Alternating their liquid diet seems to keep my garlic babies happy.
  • In between, water regularly (unless it rains) until the plant flowers (for hard neck varieties). Or about 1 month before harvest (soft neck). This allows bulbs to dry out and harden. I maintain adequate soil moisture of 40-50% by checking every so often with a moisture meter. Soil should be moist, NOT wet.

  • Most importantly keep weeds at bay. Garlic has a big appetite and doesn’t like competition!

CLICK BELOW for organic fertilisers and soil conditioners

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Step 5: How to Harvest Garlic

  • Keep a record of when you plant so you know the time your garlic variety is likely to mature.
  • Avoid watering before harvesting so the bulbs are dry. Nothing worse than pulling muddy bulbs!
  • You have a window of opportunity to harvest. Too soon and it will look like an onion (the segments and papery wrapper will not yet be formed).

Too late and the cloves will grow and expand so much the outer tissue paper-like wrapper will split, which will reduce bulb quality and storage life.

  • As a guideline, harvest hard neck garlic when roughly 1/3 – 1/2 the leaves are brown and wilted. Harvest soft neck varieties when the bottom few leaves start dying off or the garlic falls over. If you’re not sure, pull out one bulb to test it is fully formed before harvesting the whole crop.

Your bulbs may be different sizes depending on the variety and when they were planted.

  • Dig or gently pull up the whole plant. I don’t recommend using a garden fork or you can accidentally spear your bulb, like I did the first time! Watch out for earthworms that love to party around the roots.
  • Don’t be tempted to wash it at this stage. Dirt is GOOD! Leave it be – you can gently brush off the excess with a toothbrush after it’s cured.
  • Leave a few garlic heads in the soil rather than harvesting them all at this stage.

When they start to produce little green shoots, you can plant the cloves individually for your next crop. They’ll start to grow quickly as they already have roots.

  • If you need flavour before your garlic is fully grown, you can still harvest immature garlic bulbs. They’ll look more like leeks!

How to Store Garlic

  • To cure your garlic so it stores well, hang in a dry, airy place in the shade or on racks. Dry the bulbs for a couple of weeks (up to 4 weeks or even longer as needed in cool zones).

Cure garlic bulbs by drying undercover

CLICK BELOW for garlic press and storage solutions

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  • When to store garlic: Your garlic will be ready for storage when the bulb is papery and crinkled. This is one telltale sign you need to look for.

Well cured skins will harden enough with a protective outer papery wrapper to store for 6-7 months.

Harvesting, Curing and Storing Garlic

  • Hang garlic: When your garlic bulbs are fully dried, press hard. If there’s no resistance, you are ready to store the garlic.

Store garlic in a recycled onion bag. It’s cheap and easy!

  • Haircut: If you are going to plait your garlic, leave the leaves on. Otherwise, trim the leaf tops approximately 2.5cm/1in above the bulb and snip the roots off.

I had so much fun with this project. I prefer my garlic braids that showed a bit more plait than the bunched one and these were easier to manage because there was a little space between each bulb and it shows off the leaves as well as the garlic!

How to Braid Garlic

  • Freeze: Place individual cloves in a freezer bag or air tight container. Remove as much air as possible, seal and label with the date. Store for up to 3 months. You can freeze garlic cooked or raw to use later. Whole cloves will retain their full flavour but chopped/minced raw garlic will start to develop allicin. This active ingredient is what makes it taste hot. So releasing it will give your garlic a more mellow taste. Just use a little more in the recipe if you choose to freeze, to make up for the less potent flavour when you defrost.
  • Freeze minced garlic in an ice cube tray for convenient portions.
  • Store in a garlic keeper or open weave basket. Don’t store garlic near humidity or steam. This can reduce the storage life or your garlic bulbs.
  • You can store garlic in the fridge. However, this will reduce the flavour of your gorgeous garlic. Putting it in plastic or airtight containers can produce mouldy, rotted or sprouting garlic!

CLICK BELOW for books on how to grow and cook with garlic

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How to Grow Garlic Tips

  • Hard neck garlic varieties produce flower stems (‘scapes’) that form heads with bulbils. Prune these scapes off as soon as they appear, so the plant puts its energy into producing a larger garlic bulb.

Use the scapes as cut flowers or chop up into bite-size pieces and substitute for onions or garlic in recipes!

  • Grow garlic under roses to deter aphids.
  • Ensure soil is moist for newly planted garlic, so roots develop. Avoid over watering and ensure good soil drainage to prevent cloves rotting.
  • If you have a problem it’s likely to be due to lack of soil preparation, management during growing, incorrect pH, choosing the wrong variety for your zone or planting at the wrong time.
  • I hope you’ve enjoyed learning how to grow garlic. In Part 2, ‘Amazing Uses for Garlic in Your Home & Garden’ I share some of the wonderful ways you can benefit from your gorgeous garlic – recipes, garden tips and for medicinal purposes. You might also enjoy Guide to Growing Spring Onions – both indoors and out!

So have you tried to grow garlic before? What have your experiences been?

Learn more about Garlic*

  • According to Australian Garlic Producers, “In China, chemicals banned in Australia are still being used to grow garlic. Australia imports 95% of our garlic from China. Chinese garlic is gamma irradiated to prevent sprouting and is also sprayed with Maleic Hydrazide to extend shelf life. All imported garlic is fumigated with Methyl Bromide by AQIS on arrival in Australia.” – You decide if you want to eat garlic treated this way.
  • Food Irradiation: The Untold Story. produced by Food Irradiation Watch and learn more about how & why food is irradiated from their fact sheets.

Garlic References & Resources

  • Australian Quarantine Inspection Services (AQIS) requirements for imported garlic “The produce is subject to mandatory (pre-shipment or on-arrival) fumigation with methyl bromide at the rate of 40g/m³ for 3 hours at 21°C.”
  • ‘Fresher and Smellier‘ – The Age article – Explains good reasons to ask where your garlic comes from.
  • Methyl bromide toxicity report – PAN Pesticides Database.
  • Garlic World – Traditional Worldwide Garlic Varieties for Growing and Eating. (Australia)
  • Diggers Club – Various varieties. (Australia)

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Garlic Growing Guide

Garlic is one of the easiest and least fuss vege crops you can grow. It takes up hardly any room (width wise above the soil) and once planted it requires little care. Packed with flavour and health properties, it’s a superfood of the garden!

Traditionally garlic is planted on the shortest day and harvested on the longest day, however it can be planted in both autumn and winter.

Garlic is used daily in many kitchens worldwide – it can be used both cooked and raw, in everything from salads to seafood dishes. Garlic goes especially well with prawns, chicken, lamb, bread, olives and pasta.

Garlic thrives if given basics – food, water and plenty of sun. It will grow in both garden beds and containers.

Prepare

The better the soil, the better your plants will grow. If you are starting with an existing garden bed dig in organic matter like sheep pellets and Tui Compost to your soil. Then add a layer of Tui Vegetable Mix. If planting in pots and containers use Tui Vegetable Mix.

Plant

Garlic bulbs are readily available in garden centres in winter, buy a whole bulb like you would at the supermarket. Steer clear of planting garlic from supermarkets as often it has been treated to stop it sprouting away in the supermarket – particularly if it’s been imported from China.

Planting in garden beds:

  • Break up each bulb into cloves, it is these cloves which you plant NOT the whole bulb.
  • Bury each clove finger depth at least 5cm below the ground (twice as deep as the length of the clove). Shallow planting will cause big problems. When the plants grow the roots can’t support the weight of the heavy leaves and fall over, pulling the whole plant out of the ground. Hence always plant deep!
  • Once planted, shoots will appear within a month or so.

Planting in pots and containers:

  • Garlic is happy growing in pots and containers, in a pot the size of a kitchen bucket you can plant about six cloves of garlic.
  • Choose a pot or container with good drainage and position in a spot that receives full sun.
  • Break up each bulb into cloves, it is these cloves which you plant NOT the whole bulb.
  • Fill with Tui Vegetable Mix.
  • Bury each clove finger depth at least 5cm below the mix (twice as deep as the length of the clove).

Nourish

Feed your plants and they will feed you. Plants use nutrients from the soil as they grow, so replenishing the nutrients ensures your plants grow to their full potential.

For garlic planted in garden beds feed every four weeks during key growth periods. Tui Vegetable Food is a rich formulation of fertilisers including dolomite, blood and bone and sheep manure dust designed to encourage healthy vegetable growth and microbial and earthworm activity in the soil. If planting in pots and containers use an all purpose variety, such as Tui NovaTec Premium fertiliser.

Apply Tui Organic Seaweed Plant Tonic through the season to encourage larger cloves.

Garlic needs to be kept well watered to produce large bulbs, particularly as the bulbs are starting to form in November and December. Well watered, well nourished plants will have a better chance of keeping insect pests and diseases at bay.

Be vigilant and stop unwanted insects and diseases from ruining your garlic plants. If aphids are a problem treat with a suitable insect control from your garden centre. If your garlic is affected by rust follow our information here >

Harvest in summer once the tops start to die back. Don’t be tempted to pull the bulbs out by the leaves, dig up with a fork and leave to dry on the top of the ground for a week or so, then plait and store somewhere dry and away from direct sunlight.

Keep a few good heads of your own garlic to use as the stock of next year’s crop. You can expect about 150 plants from a dozen heads of garlic.

Once you’ve harvested your garlic, try this Potato Gratin with Gruyere and Garlic recipe to enjoy your bumper crop.

Tui Tips

  • Protect your garlic plants from the elements with layers of Tui Pea Straw Mulch to keep the soil moist and cool when the garlic is actively growing.

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