How to grow garlic

How to grow garlic

One of the many advantages of living in a cool climate is that it’s perfect for growing garlic.

Since establishing my patch six years ago I have rarely had to buy garlic. It’s only late in the season, around August and September, that we need to turn to the greengrocer for some imported product.

We never buy Chinese garlic, that stuff is sprayed with chemicals to stop it from sprouting and it’s likely that it’s years old. If you have to, the garlic from Mexico is usually pretty good.

Thankfully Australian producers, like the Morgan family here in Orange, are stepping up and one day we’ll be able to have excellent local supplies all year round.

This is the sixth year in a row I’ve planted garlic and this year’s crop are descendants from the first, cool climate variety bulbs that I bought.

I have always had problems with these little bugs that you can see on your right. These are the larvae of the African Black Beetle and they love chowing down on your plants roots and especially chewing holes into potatoes.

The enemy. African Black Beetle Larvae. The chooks love them.
The enemy. African Black Beetle Larvae. The chooks love them.

I have had so many that a research scientist from the Orange Agricultural Institute set a light trap out in the yard so that he could breed them.

I have noticed though that I have never had them where I’ve planted my garlic or onions. So being the experimental kind of bloke that I am, I’m planting my garlic and onions where I will be planting next years potato crop.

As companions, potatoes and the alliums are not meant to play together, but in a rotational bedding system they are beneficial.

Step one is to separate all the individual bulbs from the knob and keep the papery skin on.

When the garlic first begins growing it needs to access the energy in the bulb to get started. This is why it sprouts in your cupboard. For this reason I tend to only keep and replant some of  the best specimens and keep for cooking the remainder. I also keep the skinny internal bulbs for cooking, they rarely have the energy to survive and if they do, are usually small in size.

Shape out a shallow trench with a hoe or mattock and sprinkle down some goodness.
Shape out a shallow trench with a hoe or mattock and sprinkle down some goodness.

Then using a mattock I dig a few trenches where I’m going to plant them. I mix up blood and bone, some organic pellets and because I like to add magnesium to the soil, some epsom salts and sprinkle it along the trench.

Then I dig it in and mix it all around with some lucerne mulch. I form little rows and mounds where the garlic will grow and begin placing out the garlic.

We average about one knob, or more, of garlic a week so I’m planting 60 bulbs, 20 in each row.

Space them about 12cm apart and poke them into the soil with the pointy end up.

Then when you have them all lined up just go along the line and poke them down just below the surface of the soil.

Give them a drink and mark out the rows.

Garlic hates competition so be ever so vigilant with the weeds and give them a fortnightly feed of a watered down liquid fertiliser.

Poke them in about this far apart.
Poke them in about this far apart before pressing them down below the soil.

That’s all you need do but you can snip of the young greens for use in the kitchen if you’re that way inclined.

Harvest the garlic when the tips start to yellow.

If a plant goes to seed I cut them off as it starts to take energy out of the bulb. You can leave a few to self seed but I’m a control freak and like my garden in rows.