Fresh garlic is a staple in our household and growing it is very satisfying. It has been grown and used for centuries for culinary and medicinal purposes.
There are two types of garlic, soft and hard neck. Soft neck garlic is the kind you can plait for storage and these varieties are suited to a warmer, more temperate climate, while hard neck garlic is more suited to a cooler climate. Where we are in south eastern NSW both grow well for us.
Planting times are generally March through May. If you plant late you may find the garlic harvested will be quite small. Garlic will happily grow in full sun to part shade, but make sure that the soil has good drainage otherwise the bulbs may rot. You can add well rotted manure and organic matter to your garden bed a few weeks before you plant. Garlic doesn’t like too much nitrogen though, so if your soil is a bit acidic you can add lime to bring the ph up.
Separate each clove in the bulb and only plant the large ones. Plant pointy end up in loosened soil about 2-3cm from the top. If you are mulching the bed you can plant the cloves right under the surface to ensure they sprout, making sure that the mulch is not compacted but loose. Plant 10-20cm apart depending on the variety and water in well. You will need to keep the bed moist for the first few weeks but water only when necessary once they are established, don’t let the bed dry out completely though. You can fertilise once a month with worm tea or seaweed solution.
Garlic takes about 8 months to produce a bulb. Harvesting occurs between November and January once the flower or leaves have started to turn brown but don’t wait until it completely dies back. Be gentle with bulbs as bruised and damaged bulbs do not store well. Once harvested, clean off as much dirt as possible and pop them somewhere with adequate airflow and little moisture to dry out for a few weeks. If you’re harvesting soft neck varieties, plait straight away while the stems are still quite pliable.
Once your garlic is cured and the skin is papery you can hang in bunches in a cool, dry place with good air flow. If not storing in bunches or plaits trim the leaves and stalk to 2cm from the bulb and trim the roots to 1cm. You can store the trimmed bulbs in shallow cardboard or slatted wood boxes, netting bags or anything really that allows good air flow. If not damaged, diseased and cured and stored properly, the bulbs can last up to 12 months or more.
Check out our shop for home grown chemical free garlic and check out our recipe page for ideas and inspiration!