Late autumn (October/November) is the best time to plant garlic, because they generally need a long growing season with a cold period (below 5 degrees Celcius) for proper bulb development.
There are two types of garlic: hard-neck and soft-neck. Cultivation for both is the same. The difference is that hard-neck garlic sometimes produce flower stalks – which should be removed to divert all energy into bulb development. Soft-neck garlic is named because their necks bend over when ready for harvesting; they do not flower and tend to have a milder flavour.
So the real difference is that hard-necked garlic might be more work overall in the sense that you have to keep an eye on the plants and to strangle off any emerging flower head if any grow. With soft-necked garlic you don’t have to worry about having to strangle off flowering which would divert from growth of the garlic bulbs, as soft-necked garlic don’t set flower and their leaves yellow and die down when the bulbs are grown to maturity.
Break bulbs into cloves just before planting.
Add a balanced fertiliser at planting time.
Plant each clove 1 1/2-2 inches deep (3-4cm), pointed end up in well-drained moisture-retentive soil in full sun.
Apply 15 grams per square metre sulphate of potash in February.
(Sulphate of Potash contains the essential nutrient potassium. Potassium boosts flowering and the ripening of fruit, improving plant strength and vigour. Sulphate of Potash/ potassium provides plants with greater resistance to weather and disease, as well as promoting the development and colour of flowers and increased fruit yields.)
- Water plants well in the growing period.
- Stop watering for a few weeks before harvesting in summer, to help ripen the bulb.
- When you harvest, lay them on a board in the sun to dry and ‘cure’ before storing.
Tips for planting in heavy wet soil: planting into heavy wet soil (like our very heavy clay plots!) can lead to the cloves rotting and not developing. Or growing very slowly and poorly. If this is the case, it can help to dig a small hole and adding half an inch of garden grit and sand into the hole before planting the garlic clove.
Garlic Diseases: Rust. Search also ‘leek rust’ and ‘onion white rot’ on gardening advice sites
Rust – puccinia porri – is a fungus that infects garlic, leeks, onions and chives. Heavy rust attacks on garlic occur in late spring to summer, with raised bright orange spots showing on the foliage; these contain urediniospores which can infect living tissue. Later in the season as the plant’s leaves begin to die, teleospores develop in the dark brown spots. There are no fungicides that control rust on garlic; remove allium plant debris at the end of the season, and remove affected leaves. Do not compost.
To best protect against garlic diseases and rust, avoid nitrogen-rich soils with low potassium levels. It also helps not to overcrowd plants, as this can worsen rust infections.
Elephant Garlic (Giant): plant 1 inch deep, 4 inches apart. Keep the soil moist during the growing season and keep the soil weeded. In mid-summer when the leaves start to die down, lift garlic and leave to ripen for a few days. Store in a dry, airy position. Said to be excellent for roasting or eating raw in salads.
We planted two elephant garlic bulbs into the new raised bed by the holly tree (where we grew summer cucumber) on Tuesday 26 October 2021 – a grey, overcast day but relatively warm. In that new raised bed are also some garlic bulbs that I had planted about a month ago, from a bulb dug up when I turned over the beds and must have been left behind when we had harvested the garlic in the early summer. ((In 2019 we had planted elephant garlic on a drizzly day, Saturday 9 November 2019.))
Garcua Garlic (soft-necked): plant 1 inch deep, 4 inches apart; keep soil moist during growing season; remove weeds. Mid-summer leaves will start to die down. Lift the garlic from the soil and leave on the surface to ripen for a few days. When dry, store in a light, dry & airy position. Garcua garlic is a good storer and has strong flavour. Planted Tuesday 26 October 2021 into beds that had been planted with chili and jalepeno peppers, which we turned over and fertilised with bone meal before planted with the garlic.
Germidour French Garlic (soft-necked): plant 1 inch deep, 4 inches apart; keep soil moist during growing season; remove weeds. Mid-summer leaves will start to die down. Lift the garlic from the soil and leave on the surface to ripen for a few days. When dry, store in a light, dry & airy position. Said to have a mild flavour, with violet cloves. Planted Saturday 9 November 2019 (a drizzly day).
We harvested our autumn 2019 garlic patch on 4 June 2020, which was also a leaden-skied day – grey and overcast which threatened to rain, but remained dry. We had stopped watering the garlic bed from mid-May.