Grow your own garlic

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Garlic for sale in the Campo dei Fiori, Rome, Italy

This week, dodging the ongoing rain showers, I have been planting garlic. Growing garlic (Allium sativum) is one of the simplest forms of crop production, and I don't think I am alone in not wanting to eat garlic that has been bleached with chlorine, sprayed with dubious pesticides and fumigated with methyl bromide (in accordance with Australian quarantine standards), as much imported garlic is, these days (and most of our garlic is imported). Imported garlic is also often kept for long periods in cold storage (losing much of its nutritional value in the process) and treated with growth inhibitors.

Last year was the first time I grew a crop of garlic. I had a bulb of Australian-grown garlic that was starting to sprout, so I decided to plant it out in my vegetable patch. The best spot to grow it is in a bed with light, well-drained soil in full sun. Added compost or rotted animal manure will enrich the soil. I simply separated the bulb into individual cloves and poked them into the soil, with the pointed top of the clove just below the surface. Mulching is helpful to reduce weed competition, and regular watering is important. March to early April is the optimum time to plant the cloves. The area for planting should be changed each year for best results.

My garlic bulbs drying last spring

The cloves take around seven to eight months to turn into a bulb, so garlic planted now will be ready around September or October. The best time to harvest is when the tops start to turn brown - not when they have completely died back. They should be dug up very gently, so that the bulbs aren't bruised, as this will reduce their keeping quality. The next step is to dry the bulb for two or three weeks, outdoors but undercover. Last year, I hung mine from a clothes rack on the back verandah, pegging each bulb by its long, brown foliage. After drying, the bulbs should be stored in net bags in a dry place.

The resulting garlic was delicious and I enjoyed using every last clove in a variety of dishes. Research has shown that garlic has a range of health-giving properties, being most beneficial when eaten crushed and raw, and tasting at its best shortly after being prepared; however, I also like to roast whole bulbs of garlic in the oven to produce a more mellow flavour to add to salad dressings and mayonnaises.

Various types of organic garlic cloves can be purchased now from suppliers to plant. It isn't advisable to plant garlic from a bulb bought at the supermarket, which could be imported and carry the risk of introducing soil-borne viruses (despite all the sprays they have been subjected to). If you don't wish to grow your own garlic but don't want to eat the imported stuff, investigate the range of organic Australian garlic on sale online later in the year when the harvest has come in.

Reader Comments

  • By margaret 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 20 March 2017

    Thank you for your comprehensive advice on growing garlic. I grew some, many years ago, and it was delicious. Encouraged and inspired by your success, I am about to purchase some bulbs, and plant them, as the ones available at the supermarkets, and even greengrocers, are tasteless and don"t keep for long. Thanks, Margaret. Hope it grows well for you. Deirdre

  • By 10dril 3146 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 20 March 2017

    Hi, I planted a lot of garlic last year, but didn"t harvest them. I suppose they"ll multiply, but will the newly multiplied bulbs be useful if I get round to harvesting them this October? Or will they have been too cramped and be stunted? See Pam"s comment below. Why not dig one up now and have a look at how it is? Deirdre

  • By Pam 2159 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 20 March 2017

    Hi Deirdre, I plant lots of garlic each year - the old idea was to plant on the "shortest day" and harvest on the "longest day", but seasons seem to have changed. The times you mention are now more suitable. I plait some of mine and hang then on the verandah to stay dry, and keep away the vampires! Some of 10dril"s garlic may be still usable - or could be divided and replanted this year - I sometimes miss digging up a bulb, and find it when it sprouts. Thanks, Pam. I enjoyed growing the garlic last year and look forward to the crop later in the year. Deirdre

  • By JAN 2130 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 20 March 2017

    Thanks Deirdre. Very keen to try my own organic garlic. I saw bulbs for sale at the Collectors Plant Fair last time so will get some if I see it this year. I may look out for done too, Jan. hope to run into you at the fair! Deirdre

  • By Janna UK Tuesday, 21 March 2017

    Here, they say you should plant cloves on the shortest day of the year and harvest them on the longest. So we could remind each other to do the opposite, but on the very same day! I"ve not knowingly had home grown garlic, so perhaps I should give it a go. It seems that is a common timetable for planting and harvesting but much of what I have read suggests March and April are the best times to plant here! Hope you can give it a go - it really is delicious when home-grown! Deirdre

  • By meryl 2206 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 21 March 2017

    I always look out for the Lane Cove plant sale. It"s wonderful. But what terrible timing. Isn"t that the same weekend as the Collectors Plant Fair at Clarendon? I"ll be all shopped out. Yes it does fall on the same weekend this year but hopefully all will go well for them! Makes for a super-duper plant-buying weekend! Deirdre

  • By meryl 2206 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 22 March 2017

    I"ve been growing garlic for several years now. It"s a very undemanding crop and rewarding because decent garlic is so expensive in the shops. There is no need to pay heaps to buy special bulbs to plant. If it"s labelled "organic" and Australian in the supermarket or fruit and veg store, it will grow just fine. Buy several bulbs and plant the biggest cloves because they"ll deliver bigger bulbs eventually. Use the smaller cloves in the kitchen. Thanks for those great tips, Meryl. Deirdre

  • By Trish 2330 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 22 March 2017

    Thank you so much for the article it could not have come at a better time we are in the process of starting a small business growing garlic & chives, we have just moved to Shannondale 2460, near Coutts crossing on 5 acres so am looking for all the advice & information I can get, thanks again, regards Trish Good luck with your new venture, Trish. There is some useful information on the Green Harvest website if you haven"t seen that. Deirdre

  • By Trish 2330 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 22 March 2017

    Thanks Deidre, No I hav"nt seen it but I certainly will follow it up, many thanks, regards Trish

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