When to Plant
- Autumn varieties: September – December
- Spring varieties: January – March
- Autumn varieties: May – July
- Spring varieties: June – August
Site and Soil
Garlic needs an open, sunny site with light, free-draining soil. Avoid planting garlic in very heavy or freshly manured ground. Garlic responds well to potash, so if you have any available wood ash you can make use of it by digging it in to your soil. Or, for best results, use a pre-planting garlic fertiliser as well.
How to Grow Garlic from Bulbs Planting Both autumn and spring varieties can be planted straight outside into prepared soil. Break the bulbs into individual cloves. Loosen up the soil in the planting area, add some pre-planting fertiliser and work it into 10cm ridges. The cloves should then pushed into these ridges about 15cm apart (pointy-end up) at a depth of about 2cm.
Garlic prefers light soil, but where this isn’t available dig a generous amount of grit into the planting area to ensure any water can drain away from the bulb.
Garlic benefits from watering during dry spells in the middle of summer. Once established, garlic requires little attention other than occasional weeding and feeding with a liquid feed. Hardneck varieties produce a flower stem which, if cut off 3 – 4 weeks before harvesting, can increase the bulb size by up to 20%.
If you want to eat your garlic ‘green’ or ‘wet’ you can harvest it around May to June, when the foliage is still green. Don’t lift all your crop early because it doesn’t store for long and won’t dry out successfully. Autumn-planted varieties are better for lifting early because they have had longer to establish.
Alternatively you can harvest garlic at the traditional time, once the leaves start to turn yellow (around mid to late-summer). The easiest way to lift them is by pushing a hand or border fork into the ground next to them and easing them out of the ground.
Once you have harvested your garlic bulbs, the best way to store them is by drying them out, this usually takes about a week to do, ideally in sunny, breezy conditions.
Dry garlic by hanging in bunches or plaited, or laid on wooden shelves. For those drying out by lying on benches, cut off the stems down to about 2cm. Bulbs left in the soil for another winter tend to re-sprout the following spring and produce clusters of flavoursome leaves which can be used like chives.
Garlic Pests and Diseases
- Rust disease – rusty spots form on the leaves, sometimes killing them off completely, often resulting in smaller bulbs size. This commonly happens when the growing garlic sits in damp soil for too long, it can also happens if grown in soil where either onions, garlic or leeks have been grown before. There isn’t a cure for rust disease, but if you see any leaves with rust-coloured spots on, remove them and throw them away to help prevent the rust from spreading. Don’t grow garlic, onions or leeks in areas that have been affected by rust – avoid these areas for 4 to 5 years as the spores can be active for years.
- Onion white rot – the leaves turn yellow and wilt, preventing the bulb from forming properly. The bulbs will have white, fuzzy spots on if they have onion white rot. There isn’t a cure, the best thing to do it remove the bulbs from the area completely to avoid the disease spreading.
- Onion fly – the leaves start to wilt and turn yellow, preventing the bulbs from developing. Onion fly can affect garlic and leeks as well as onions. The larvae of onion fly live in the soil and eat the roots of the bulb, and eventually burrow into the bulb itself. Discard any bulbs you discover with onion fly..