If I had to pick just one vegetable I couldn’t be without, it would have to be garlic. Its rich, satisfying taste is pure indulgence. Luckily for fellow garlic enthusiasts, growing this flavoursome delight is pretty straightforward.
Read on or watch our video to discover exactly how to plant, grow and harvest these beautiful bulbs.
Types of Garlic
There are two types of garlic: ‘hardneck’ or ‘softneck’. Hardneck varieties produce flower stems, or ‘scapes’, which must be removed to encourage the bulbs to reach their full potential. The scapes themselves are an early summer treat, delicious chopped into salads or stir-fried for a taste of the bulbs to come. Hardneck varieties are more tolerant of cold weather than softneck ones, so opt for these if your winters are harsh.
While not a true garlic, the enormous ‘Elephant’ garlic behaves like a hardneck type. Despite its size, it has a mild flavour.
Garlic from the supermarket may carry disease and could be unsuitable for your climate.
How to Plant Garlic
Originating from central Asia, garlic loves a sunny location in fertile, free-draining soil. You can improve your soil by digging in plenty of well-rotted organic matter, such as garden compost, a few months before planting.
Unlike many vegetables, garlic is usually planted in autumn. This is because the winter cold signals it to begin bulb production the following spring. To find out when you can plant in your area, take a look at our Garden Planner. Add garlic to your plan then refer to the accompanying Plant List to see when to plant it and when you can expect to enjoy your harvest.
Plant your garlic into prepared soil raked to a fine tilth. Begin planting by carefully breaking apart the bulb to separate the individual cloves. Plant them pointy end up, about six inches (15cm) apart, leaving a foot (30cm) between rows. You can make a trench, or dig a hole for each clove. Cover them back over with soil so that the tips of the cloves are only just below the surface. If birds pull up the cloves, replant them and pop horticultural fleece or netting over the top to prevent further problems.
In very cold regions garlic cloves can be planted into module trays for planting out in spring. Fill the trays with general purpose potting soil and plant one clove per module in exactly the same way.
You can also grow garlic in containers. Choose pots that are at least eight inches (20cm) wide, with adequate drainage holes in the base. Plant the cloves so they are four to six inches, or 10 to 15cm apart in each direction. Cover them with more potting soil then move to a sunny spot.
Garlic needs very little attention. Water if the weather is dry – especially garlic in containers – and weed between rows to prevent plants from getting swamped.
Lay an organic mulch such as grass clippings occasionally during the growing season to help to feed plants, while keeping the ground cool and moist.
Harvesting and Storing Garlic
Your garlic is ready to lift when the leaves have begun to turn yellow or die down in summer. Use a fork or trowel to ease the bulbs from the ground then dry them out somewhere warm and airy.
Once dry, brush off any remaining soil, cut off the leaves, then store in a cool, dry place on racks for good airflow. Alternatively, weave the leaves into a plait to hang up. Garlic bulbs should keep like this for three months or more.
And that’s it – growing garlic couldn’t be any simpler! If you’ve got a variety you particularly rate, whether for character, flavour or storing abilities, please tell us about it in the comments section below. Or perhaps you’ve got a helpful garlic-growing tip you’d like to share? We’d love to hear it!