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, but 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.
- 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.
- Plant into well-drained moisture-retentive soil in full sun.
- Apply 15 grams per square metre sulphate of potash in February.
- 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 before planting 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 & chives.
- Heavy 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 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.
- Avoid nitrogen-rich soils with low potassium levels, and do not overcrowd plants as these can worsen rust infections.
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).
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 the 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. Planted Saturday 9 November 2019 (a drizzly day).
We harvested our 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.