Easy to grow, useful in the kitchen, and effective vampire repellent, garlic is a plant that any budding gardener should have. Still, despite being a simple plant to grow there is a lot to consider when growing your own garlic. Not only are there different types of garlic, but everything from timing to temperature is significant.
What type of garlic should you grow?
There are two types of garlic to consider; hardneck and softneck. These do have an impact on the plant’s ability to grow, the taste and the look of the crop.
Hardneck garlic is known for its ability to produce long, winding stems that need to be cut in order for the bulbs to keep growing. This variety of garlic is also more adapted to colder climates, so they can be preferable to gardeners in those areas. Also, as a side note, the stems can be used in cooking also and taste great in a salad.
Softneck garlic, on the other hand, is known for being easy to store and also keep for longer.
When to Plant Garlic
Despite being one of the simpler crops to grow, many people fail to plant their garlic at viable times in the year.
So when do you plant garlic?
Garlic is best planted during the Autumn, at some point between October and December for the best results. During this time the cold weather signals the clove for bulb production for the following spring. This should allow you to harvest your garlic around July. Although if you live in a warmer climate, you can also plant garlic in spring, which typically results in a harvest the following year.
How to Plant Garlic
When buying your bulbs, it’s best to avoid supermarket varieties as these are not best suited for growing and are more susceptible to rot and disease. Try sourcing some online or at a local garden center, which will also give you the ability to choose from a wider selection of bulbs.
Before planting ensure that you locate a patch of your garden that has direct access to sunlight. Next, make sure to toss the patch you are planting in to allow for proper drainage. Then it’s just a case of breaking apart your bulb, planting your cloves pointy side up, and giving them around 6 inches of space between one another. Cover them with soil, leaving a tiny bit of space between the top of each clove and the top layer of soil.
Garlic is low maintenance, but it is worth adding some fertilizer to your patch before you start planting the cloves, aiding them in their growth.
There are some other options for those in colder climates, as planting in module trays can provide the ability to store and move the plant around. Similarly, you can also plant in a normal pot if you wish, planting enough to provide at least 4 inches of space between them.
Growing your Garlic
Once spring arrives you should start to see shoots stemming from the ground, these need to be cut so that the bulb is retaining more energy for growth. You can also run into issues with weeds covering and effecting bulbs, blocking sunlight, so be observant and remove anything getting in the way.
Despite being low maintenance, garlic will still require watering every 3 – 5 days, especially in dryer weather. Fertilizer is also important, with the likes of straw and grass clippings being a great source of nutrients or check out our guide here for other ideas.
When to Harvest
If you planted in autumn your garlic should be ready to harvest around summertime, typically July – August. This is easy to spot as the leaves at the bottom of the stem will begin to turn a light yellow or brown color, indicating their maturity. A good bulb is one that does not have a thin skin and isn’t split apart, the latter leaving them susceptible to disease.
Harvesting is a simple task and requires lifting them out of the ground gently, preferably with a garden fork, and then leaving them to dry in the shade. Make sure to knock off any residue or soil from the ground, trim the leaves, and leave them out to air in a tray or hung up.
Once you’ve let your garlic dry, preferably for around two weeks or so, you should notice the outer skin feeling crispy and brittle. Cut off the roots, tops, and any dirty outer layers, then store them in a cool, dry place out of the sun. It’s important to keep the garlic away from moisture, so damp rooms and refrigerators should be avoided.
Garlic can last a long time if stored correctly, even lasting until the next harvest. If you’re looking to replant, keep your largest bulbs at the ready to plant once Autumn hits again.
Common Issues When Growing Garlic
Garlic rust, as the name suggests, commonly affects garlic plants with a fungal disease that will ruin the bulb if left long enough. Rust can be identified by small yellow specs on the leaves or flowers. Once garlic rust sets in its very difficult to remove, but trimming off infected foliage can still allow for the bulb to grow back properly.
On the other hand, white rot is a more concerning issue to remain vigilant over. White rot is thankfully quite rare and is spread from pre-infected plants in the same ground and can render the entire patch unusable.
It’s hard to spot white rot as it is indicated by yellow foliage, which is expected of a maturing garlic plant anyway. The only way to identify white rot is by pulling up the bulb and checking for a white fungus on the bottom.
Garlic is definitely one of the most accessible plants for a new gardener and one that allows for easy care and maintenance. There is plenty of satisfaction to be had especially with growing garlic, with homegrown garlic being full of flavor and commonly used in the kitchen you will quickly find a use for it.
If you’re interested in planting a small garden of your own, why not try your hand at planting carrots or tomatoes.