Garlic

Garlic is frequently used in Mediterranean and Asian cooking, so it’s hardly surprising it's become popular to grow at home. Garlic is simple to grow and you’ll get plenty of fat, juicy garlic bulbs, if you grow in a sunny site. Don’t be tempted to plant garlic cloves from the supermarket though, buy from a garden centre or mail order supplier.

Garlic

Grow

Garlic casts no shade and is vulnerable to being smothered by weeds. Hoeing weeds risks damaging developing bulbs so hand weeding when weeds are small is preferable.

During spring and early summer watering during dry spells will improve yields. But don’t water once the bulbs are large and well-formed, as this could encourage rotting. Yellowing foliage is a sign that bulbs are reaching this stage of maturity.

Snip off any flowers that form.

Plant

Buy bulbs from a garden centre or mail order supplier. Avoid those from the supermarket – they may carry disease and not be suited to the climate.

Garlic needs a chilling period so is best planted in late autumn or early winter. However some cultivars can be planted in early spring. On heavy, wet soils, you can start them off in modules in a cold frame before planting out in spring.

Garlic grows well in sunny, well-drained sites. Before planting dig in some well-rotted organic matter. For every square metre/yard add 25g (1oz) of general-purpose fertiliser.

Plant individual cloves so the tips are 2.5cm (1in) below the soil surface. Space 15cm (6in) apart and in rows 30cm (12in) apart.

Prevent birds from pulling up newly planted cloves by covering with horticultural fleece.

Common problems

Onion white rot

Onion white rot: A soil-borne fungus that can cause yellowing and wilting of the foliage above ground, while rotting the roots and invading the bulb beneath the soil. A white fluffy fungus appears on the base of the bulb and later becomes covered in small, round black structures.

Remedy: There is no chemical cure for onion white rot when it is the soil. It is important to avoid introduction to previously clean sites. It is transported in contaminated soil, for example on tools or on muddy footwear. Take particular care in areas where cross contamination can occur easily, for example on allotments.

More info on Onion white rot

Leek rust

Leek rust: This is a fungal disease causing bright yellow spots on the leaves. It is often worse in long, wet spells.

Remedy: Mild attacks of rust won’t harm the plant, but serious infections may cause leaves to shrivel and affect yield. There is no control for rust once you have the infection. Make sure you don’t crowd plants, as this increases humidity and increases the likelihood of infection. Dispose of any badly affected plant material, and don’t grow garlic, leeks or onions in the same spot for three years.

More info on Leek rust

Birds

Birds: Birds, especially pigeons, can cause an array of problems including eating seedlings, buds, leaves, fruit and vegetables.

Remedy: Protect the plants from birds by covering them with netting or fleece. Scarecrows and bird-scaring mechanisms work for a while, but the most reliable method of protection is to cover plants with horticultural fleece or mesh.

More info on Birds

Harvesting

Green leaves can be gathered green and used as a garnish or in salads, but the bulbs are harvested once the leaves have turned yellow.

Carefully lift them with a fork.

Lay out the bulbs to dry in an airy place. When rustling dry, they can be stored in dry place at 5-10oC (41-50F) until you're ready to use them.

Often ‘top sets’ or garlic cloves form on the stalk. This is due to changeable weather in spring. Gather and use the top sets the same as for normal cloves.

Recipes

Greg Wallace tempts us with Chicken wings with salsa, which has plenty of garlic.

Chilli teams up with garlic for this tasty Chilli greens recipe.

Nigel Slater offers up this Oriental choy sum with oyster sauce.

Garlic is a key ingredient in these Spiced pork patties in lettuce leaves - you'll need four cloves.

Garlic, ginger and spring onion come together in this Thai-style brassica stir-fry.

Varieties

‘Solent White’ AGM:Very attractive bulbs that are well adapted to the British climate. The bulbs store well into the following spring.

‘Purple Wight’:An early garlic with purple-streaked bulbs. It is best used fresh as it doesn’t store well.

‘Arno’ AGM:An attractive garlic with ivory-white skin covering pink cloves. Stores well.

‘Spanish Roja’:An old cultivar with a strong flavour. The cloves are easy to peel and store well.


Buy now

Do now

  • Plant individual cloves
  • Cover with horticultural fleece to deter birds

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