Garlic is a very easy plant to grow. It is a great one to try if you are new to gardening, as it has big, easy-to-handle seeds (the cloves), doesn’t take up a lot of space, and is tolerant of a bit of neglect! There is nothing like the taste of home-grown garlic – it beats the store-bought stuff hands down.
In our area (Toowoomba, QLD), the best time of year to plant garlic is around St Patrick’s Day (give or take a few weeks). If you get your garlic in the ground around this time, it forms the bulbs over winter, and is ready to harvest in Spring. If you plant in the wrong season, the garlic won’t form bulbs properly – it needs the cooler weather to do this.
This particular batch that I am planting in these photos was grown in my garden last year. I had purchased a pack of organic garlic from my local supermarket (organic so that it wasn’t sprayed with any sprout inhibitor). Most nurseries should have garlic for planting around this time of year, or you can try online stores such as Diggers ( www.diggers.com.au ) – just be aware that quarantine restrictions do apply to garlic, depending on where you are located. I have no idea what variety this batch is, but it was certainly very productive (3 small bulbs produced about 30 bulbs), and garden pests left it strictly alone.
Firstly, prepare the soil. We are very lucky to have great soil in our Toowoomba region (one reason our gardens are so famous!), so in my case I have just added some mushroom compost to enrich the soil and help it hold water better.
In the photo below, you can see the bulbs I started out with. I ended up using 3 or 4 of the largest bulbs. Separate the bulbs into individual cloves, leaving the outer paper covering on. You can see in the photo that some of the cloves have already started to sprout (which they do at this time of year).
Plant each individual clove, with the pointy end up. Cloves can be placed approximately 15-20cm apart, and the tip of the pointy end should be just under the level of the soil. The plant when fully grown looks not unlike a leek in size and shape, so you need to keep that in mind when spacing plants.
Cover cloves with soil.
Mulch well. I’ve used organic sugar cane mulch. Water the newly planted garlic.
Now all you need to do is wait for the first shoots to come up – which should only take a couple of weeks.
The garlic is usually ready to harvest around mid-Spring, or when the leaves start to turn brown and die off. When harvesting, you need to dig it out CAREFULLY, as it is tender and easily damaged. It needs to then sit for a couple of weeks in a shaded, well-ventilated area to ‘cure’, prior to storage.