Grow Great Garlic At Home This Year
[Updated 1 June 2020]It’s that time of year when if you intend on growing garlic from cloves, they have to go in the ground. In fact, when and how to plant garlic can be confusing as there are two windows of opportunity with which is best rather depending on where you live.
And of course, the weather!
The first and preferred time is in the winter months, just after Christmas is perfect – but there are problems doing this depending again on where you live, the frozen or waterlogged ground being our main adversaries.
The second opportunity is a couple of months later when the bad weather has passed, and planting in early spring normally overcomes problems with the ground, but inevitably the shorter growing season will reduce your crop size.
However, there is a way around this which pretty fools proof and will get the garlic off to a good start, allowing you to plant them into sun-warmed spring soil with a fully developed root system. If the ground is still cold and wet or worse still frozen, then plant up the individual cloves in pots now and get them started off.
Don’t Plant Those You Bought To Eat!
Firstly you need to know that growing garlic from cloves means buying a bulb from the garden center or another horticultural outlet – Amazon has them. Please don’t buy and use one from the grocery store. Commercially grown garlic carries a virus which will be passed on to the next generation, whereas bulbs produced specifically to be planted and grown on are virus-free.
It may not seem important but the virus transfers to the soil and may affect future crops of several vegetable varieties – not just garlic, so be warned.
Plant Them Now
Each bulb contains between 12 and 20 individual cloves, so gently separate them. You can plant into individual pots so the very tip is just showing, yogurt pots with drainage holes punched in the bottom are perfect.
I Use Guttering!
Alternatively, try using this professional gardener’s trick of a length of guttering filled with soil – just tape card over the ends to retain soil but not seal them up to allow for drainage. Now plant cloves about 4 inches apart and water in.
With pots or gutter, place in a greenhouse if you have one or outside somewhere sheltered and sunny, water sparingly in dry weather and by the time the warmer weather arrives, the cloves will have developed a strong root system and be ready to grow on (as pictured right).
With the guttering method, planting out is very fast, just hoe out a gutter shaped trench and starting at one end gently ease the cloves out along the row then water them in. You’ll cause virtually no root disturbance this way and the garlic should grow away quickly.
Caring For Garlic
Garlic is one of the easiest crops to grow. Water in very warm weather, if any flower stalks form carefully cut them out – you can use the stalks to cook with so don’t throw them away. Other than that they will pretty much look after themselves. Pests are rarely a problem, the taste is too strong!
Harvesting Your Garlic
Towards the end of summer or in early autumn you’ll see the stalk begin to brown and growth dies back. Stop any watering at this point – don’t worry if it rains, late summer rain rarely gets into the soil and dries out really fast.
Trust me, you’ll know when you see them that the time is right to harvest, but look for brown leaves and very little green left. Now using a hand fork gently lift them. Shake the soil off and if sunny, allow drying naturally for a day or so. If rain is forecast take them in and hang somewhere warm and dry for a couple of days. Cut the stalks off and store your precious crop in cool dark and dry conditions, ready to use whenever you want it.
On the Sticky Subject Of Peeling Garlic Cloves
By the way, when I’m using garlic, I hate preparing the cloves – I mean the peeling off of the tight translucent skin – such a pain – or used to be… If you want garlic peeled in a flash without the garlicky fingers then take a look at these garlic peeler roller tubes.
My brother bought one as a gift (still in shock!) then spoiled it by literally throwing it at me. But they cost just a few dollars and work like an absolute dream – possibly the kitchen gadget find of 2013, sure makes the shortlist anyway.
I hope this guide on when and how to plant garlic, how to grow your crop on and then when to harvest it, has helped or inspired you to grow this easy and invaluable crop in your own veggie patch.