Tips For Growing Garlic

Did you know.....

Garlic is 'day length sensitive', which means that as daylight hours shorten as we head into winter, the plants put on vegetative growth which means they are producing their leaf and root systems.  The spring equinox (Sept 21 / 22) marks the time when the daylight hours begin to lengthen and the bulb growth phase is initiated.

The size of the bulb is partially determined by the amount of leaves and roots the young plants have at this stage.  The more leaves, the bigger the harvested bulb will be.

Other factors contributing to bulb size include size and health of clove at time of planting, soil conditions and moisture levels.

Planting and soil preparation

Garlic prefers rich, well drained soil that has been well dug over with no hard lumps to inhibit the root or bulb growth.

In sandy soils some extra potash can be beneficial but usually the right balance of nitrogen and phospate will suffice.  A pH of between 6 & 7 will allow these nutrients to be available to the garlic plants.

Blood and bone is rich in these nutrients, so dig in about a 2mm sprinkle over your planting area and incorporate it into the soil.

Purchase your garlic seed (cloves) from a reputable grower / nursery.

Break up the heads of your garlic and separate the cloves.  Choose the fattest cloves to plant, pointy end up, about 5 - 7 cm's deep.  The skinny, smaller cloves can be planted but may not be as vigorous.

Plant the selected cloves about 10cm apart with approximately 20cm between each of your rows.

Growing

Garlic has a dense surface root system that can dry out quickly and can be easily damaged by cultivation.  Weeds will be your growing garlics worst enemy and your garlic beds should be kept as weed free as possible.

You may want to consider mulching after planting.  Compost such as mushroom or seaweed is great.  Other options such as tea leaves and coffee grounds are also good so long as they do not compact and form a crust.

Whether you decide to mulch or not, keep the bed weed-free and avoid deep root cultivation once the garlic plants are in the ground.

A further dressing of blood and bone in late winter/early spring will keep your garlic plants leaves and roots growing. Leaf growth ceases following the spring equinox so take care to fertilise prior to then.  Once bulb growth commences, an over-abundance of nitrogen (blood and bone) may lead to softer bulbs that do not store as well.

Harvesting 

Harvest time will vary depending on where you live.  Victorian garlic harvests may be as early as November and as late as January.

As harvest time approaches, keep an eye on your garlic and reduce watering as over moist soil can lead to rotting bulbs.

Your garlic plants will show when they need to be lifted; when the tops start to yellow and the neck of the bulb starts to get soft and papery, then it's getting close to the right time.  When the plant has 3 - 5 green leaves left then it's time to harvest.  The bases of these leaves form the tissue paper covering to the bulb.  If you leave them in the ground longer then the bulb may open up and split.

Storage

One of the most important steps in growing garlic is to ensure you dry and cure it properly.  Choose a cool, dry, airy place to hang your bulbs.

Cultivars

Hard neck cultivars grow best in regions with cold winters - as opposed to sub tropical.  Hard necks have a superior flavour but tend to have a shorter storage capacity of 3 - 5 months.  Soft neck garlic can be stored for 6 - 8 months and performs well in milder climates.