I have been growing my own garlic for about 6 years now and I haven’t looked back. We no longer buy shop garlic or seed garlic and it it’s a must have in any kitchen garden.
You can plant garlic any time from September to late March, but first you need to decide what garlic you want to plant and when, and getting your growing space ready. Don’t be tempted to plant these under cover or in a greenhouse. They love the frosts and the frosts are what enable the cloves to multiply.
Garlic likes free draining soil that doesn’t hold too much acidity. If your space floods, this isn’t suitable as the cloves will rot.
Plant the cloves 15cm apart, 3-4cm deep.
Feed with sulphate of potash (just sprinkled and watered in) from February, every 6 weeks.
It benefits from watering in dry weather until a few weeks prior to harvest.
Harvest when the leaves are brown.
Produce a hard flowering spike (scapes). They’re snipped off prior to flowering and used as a delicacy in cooking. Worth growing for these alone. Hardier and stronger in flavour.
No flowering spike, softer neck and easier to store. Good for drying, storing and plaiting.
When and what to plant.
Autumn planting garlic:
Plant: September – December
Harvest: May – July
Spring planting garlic:
Plant: January – March
Harvest: June – July
Autumn planting garlic is good if you’re looking to fill that empty space that summer has left behind in your soul. There’s no pressure to get them in, some people say that planting them on the shortest day will give you the best crops. I have always staged my planting throughout the months for when I have the best time to get it in, and that works perfectly fine for me.
Spring planting garlic is equally just as good as Autumn planting in my opinion. They soon catch up and they’ll be ready a little later. I also found that one year, the Spring planting garlic was ready at the same time as the Autumn planting.
Now if you’re wondering what to plant, please don’t plant supermarket garlic. You can introduce disease and pests into your soil. There will always be someone who will say they have planted it, and that’s fine, but that’s their decision. I fully encourage investing in your seed garlic. They have been specifically grown for seed and this purpose. It’s not just you and your growing space you are protecting, it’s those other people around you who are also growing, that you’ll be protecting from pests and diseases in their growing space too. Buy the best quality seed garlic that you can afford.
Wilko normally offer a good selection of garlic. Seed suppliers will offer many and some bulk packs of a mix of different types. If this is your first year in growing garlic and you don’t know whether to go for softneck or hardneck, these mixed boxes are good for experimenting to get a bit of both. The Isle of Wight garlic farm is also an excellent place for advice and seed.
Elephant garlic is also good fun to grow and becoming more and more popular. If you do grow this, it’s delicious roasted and has a light garlic flavour. Plus, they look awesome.
When it comes to my favourites to grow, I love a variety from year to year (although I’m running out of space to fit them in!), and I like larger bulbs to break apart rather than fiddly little cloves.
- Kingsland wight – big fat pink cloves. White-skinned Hardneck that’s easy to peel and strong in flavour. Autumn planting.
- Carcassonne Wight – another one with beautifully coloured pink cloves and white skin. A hardy variety that’s autumn planting. A great one for beginners.
- Germidour – Purple-skinned Spring planting garlic. A softneck that is reliable, but has smaller cloves than the Autumn planting Hardnecks.
- Mersey Wight – Large for a softneck variety when harvested. Pink skinned cloves that makes attractive plaits.
Make sure that whatever you decide, you try a hardneck variety. The scapes (the flowering spikes) are worth it and are delicious. They’re like garlic spring onions and they my favourite! Once you start growing it, you won’t be able to stop and you’ll start planning it automatically every year as part of your winter.
As always, there will be pests and diseases such as rust, white rot, and onion rot however, you can get pest-resistant varieties. It’s always frustrating getting something that will prevent storage. If this does happen though, you can always make garlic paste!
Your garlic planting window is 6 months of the year. Don’t panic. Get whatever in when you can. There’s no special day. Feed them, don’t drown them. They’re one of the EASIEST crops I grow so far. Bung in, keep weed free. Happy days.