How to grow garlic

There’s always something special about homegrown garlic. It’s better in both quality and flavour than the ones you buy at the supermarket.

Hailing from the onion family, garlic needs a specific condition to grow at home. 

When it comes to choosing the right variety, there are plenty of options for cultivating garlic in the UK climate.

Garlic is a special ingredient that is used in many dishes all around the world, so wouldn’t it be great to learn how to grow your own and produce it at home? 

This article with give you all the expert knowledge that you need in order for you to be a successful garlic grower.

So are you planning to grow your own garlic at home? If so, this article would offer step-by-step guidance to do it with ease.

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Table of Contents

Recommended Varieties

Below are some varieties of garlic that we recommend as these are the most suitable for cultivation in the UK.

Germidour

This softneck variety is suitable for planting in autumn. Originating from France, this variety has been well adapted to the UK climate. The cloves are consistently large and the flavour is mildly rich.

Solent Wight

This one too is a softneck variety with very attractive bulbs that have a full garlicky flavour. Autumn and Spring are the best planting seasons and the bulbs store longer than other soft neck varieties.

Laurtrec Wight

It’s a hardneck variety with white bulbs that have a medium strength of flavour. Originating from southwest France, this one is suitable for cultivating only in the warmer parts of the UK in Autumn and Spring.

Picardy Wight

Picardy, located in the northern part of France, is the origin of this softneck variety. Offering a full flavour, it’s suitable for planting in the UK during Spring and the cloves can store up to the next year’s Spring.

Early Purple Wight

This is a softneck variety with a purplish-white skin that matures earlier than other soft neck variants and is ideal for planting around May-June in the UK. Originating from France, this one can store up to two months.

Cristo AGM

This softneck variety is ideal for many dishes because it has a very strong flavour with a little aroma. It has full-grown pure white bulbs that are famous for their richness of taste.

Arno AGM

Another French variant with softneck, this garlic looks very attractive as it has pretty pink and ivory-white skin. This one stores well up to a few months after harvesting.

Solent Wight

Planting

Which Variety to Plant?

In the previous section, we’ve described some recommended variants of garlic that are suitable for the UK climate. Here, let’s explain to you the specialities of hardneck, softneck and other types of garlic plants.

Hardneck Garlic

The loosely coated cloves are quite large in size and hence you’ll get a fewer number of cloves in each garlic. The flavours are usually very strong and intense in hardneck varieties. The plant can often produce flower stalk and the storage time is up to cold winters.

Softneck Garlic

The tightly packed cloves are smaller in size and hence you’ll get plenty of them in each garlic. The storage time of this variety is usually very long. If you plant in early autumn, it can store up to next winter whereas spring planted garlic will store up to early spring next year.

Elephant Garlic

Also known as Allium Ampeloprasum, this variety is related to the leeks family. It produces very large bulbs that are mild in taste. Best planted in October, this variety needs a warm climate to grow. Sometimes, the cloves of this variety do not divide and look like a single bulb. When you plant the single bulb the next autumn, you will get new garlic with segmented bulbs.

When to Plant

Usually, most varieties of garlic need cold weather to grow and hence autumn planting is the best idea. The autumn planted garlic needs 32–50°F for about one to two months to produce new cloves. However, there are some varieties that require planting in spring and early summer. For them, spring planting would be the best idea.

Where to Plant

Garlic cloves need well drained soil and light soil in a sunny site to grow. Hence, it’s better to avoid heavy clay soil and wet soil. If you are planning to plant garlic in autumn, you need to keep it in a cold frame during winter before transplanting in spring. That way, you can protect the potting soil from the heavy soil surface. Make sure the place gets plenty of sunlight and free draining soil.

Planting Tips

Before planting, clean the soil surface by removing weeds and then you can improve the quality of the soil by retaining its moisture level and nutrient levels. You can prepare organic compost at home such as well-rotted manure and add two buckets of it in every square metre area. Make sure the compost isn’t wet but moist. While planting, you can use fertiliser on the entire ground. The recommended proportion of fertiliser is 25g per square metre and double of it at the areas where you haven’t added compost. For additional protection against weeds, you can use black plastic sheet covering. Finally, make slits and sow the garlic seeds.

The ideal way to plant the cloves is way up, which means that the rounded basal plate will face downwards and the pointy end will face upwards. Sow the cloves 1 inch below the soil and maintain a 6inch gap between each clove. You can use horticultural fleece to cover plants and protect the cloves from potential bird attacks. During autumn, you can start off in modules and then overwinter in an unheated greenhouse or cold frame in winter and finally, plant out in spring.

Garlic growing

Harvesting

The best time to harvest garlic is when you see the leaves have turned yellow. If you plant garlic in autumn, it’ll be ready to harvest in early summer whereas spring-planted ones will be ready around mid-summer or early autumn. If you delay the harvest, the bulbs will tend to open up and store less. However, you can pick some garlic leaves and cloves during the growing season and use them for cooking or garnish. You may also find top sets on the stalk, which you can use as normal garlic cloves.

Here is how you can harvest garlic the most appropriate way:

  1. Use a fork to dig up the bulbs but be very careful as bruising may affect their storage.
  2. Place them in a greenhouse or under a cloche in a single layer and let them soak sunlight.
  3. Make a balance between heat and ventilation by placing in a dry shed alternatively.
  4. It may take two to four weeks to let them dry, which will depend upon the weather.
  5. If there is any mould, use a fan heater to speed up the drying process.
  6. Once dried, cut off the stalk and store the bulbs in your pantry where the temperature is 5–10o C.
Garlic planting

Common Problems & Remedies

Usually, garlic is not too much prone to problems or diseases. However, just like onions and leeks, they can be affected by pest attacks and some diseases like leek rust, leek moth, allium leaf-mining fly and onion white rot.

Leek Rust

It is a very common disease that causes several yellow spots on the leaves.

Remedy

Though mild attacks won’t harm your plants, severe attacks can cause potential harm. Once your plant has caught rust, there is no control of it unless you take certain precautions to stop it from affecting other plants. Make sure you cut the affected plant parts and refrain from using the same pot for growing garlic. Also, maintain a gap between two plants as leek rust can occur due to excess humid weather.

Onion White Rot

It’s a soil-borne white fluffy fungus on the base of the bulb that turns black later and can rot the roots.

Remedy

When white-rot occurs in the soil, there is no way you can identify or cure it. However, you can prevent it from occurring by taking care of sites that are prone to contamination such as allotments. Muddy footwear and tools can transport this fungus and cause contamination in soil. Hence, try avoiding contamination in previously clean areas.

Bird Attacks

Pigeons and other birds often cause problems by eating fruits, leaves and seedlings.

Remedy

When you are planting garlic cloves outdoors, use fleece or net to cover your plants. Installing scarecrows can be an alternative idea but the best way is to cover the plants.

Flower Stalks

In hardneck garlic, flower stalks are natural whereas, in softneck garlic, they occur due to poor weather conditions.

Remedy

You should remove flower stalks as soon as you notice them and use them in your recipes, especially in salads and stir fries.

Green Cloves

The causes of green cloves are shallow planting and late harvesting.

Remedy

Green cloves can be used as normal cloves but you have to finish them fast as they do not store well.

Cloves on the Stem

It happens due to poor weather conditions in spring when the temperature fluctuates a lot.

Remedy

The cloves of stems are also known as top sets. You can use them as normal garlic cloves.

Garlic growing in garden
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