We Grow Garlic

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When growing garlic, there is an old aphorism which says “plant it on the shortest day of the year and harvest on the longest day” and while I have tried this, all I can say is that it didn’t work for me!

I have tried garlic growing a number of times over the years, usually as part of our normal rotation in the veggies beds, interplanted with other vegetables. The results have always been disappointing: small bulbs with only a very small number of cloves to each bulb. We do go through some garlic so I thought it was time to get serious, and make a few changes to the way I grow!

Source Material

Most of the stuff available in our local supermarkets etc. seems to be imported, and most often from China which concerned me a bit. Thankfully a friend of mine runs an organic shop fairly locally so I bought a couple of Australian produced organically grown bulbs off her which I could use as my starting stock.

Planting

I figured that maybe the other veggies interplanted with the garlic may be having a detrimental effect and the competition for light and/or nutrients stunting the garlic’s growth. Also, while the garlic did most of its growing during the cooler part of the year I thought that maybe I was planting too late and giving it an earlier start might be beneficial.

Our garlic crop in the wicking bed

So I decided that I would plant the garlic cloves in one of the wicking beds in the back yard, between the southern and central veggie beds, it gets good sun all year ‘round and will be good for watering. Also it became free from the previous crop about mid-April, giving me a good two months start over my previous plantings.

The wicking bed is 1200mm x 1200mm and I set the planting up using four rows of four plants, equally spaced away from each other about 250mm apart and pushed each clove down to about 20mm -25mm below the soil surface.

Growing

While the cloves which I had planted started to sprout fairly readily as they usually do, they also grew quite quickly with the stems thickening up rapidly, whereas before the stems themselves were always quite thin and the resulting bulb small with only a few cloves. All I had to do was make sure the soil stayed moist (we had very little rain from the end of summer right through winter) and mulched with a thin layer of sugar cane mulch to make the most of the water we had.

Harvest and Storage

I was always a bit unsure on the timing of the harvest and usually just waited for the top to die back, as I did with onions, but it turns out that is not correct. The best time to harvest is when the leaves are dying back but the top 4 to 6 leaves are still green. In practice this equated to late October for us. I did scrape some soil away from the top of a couple of growing bulbs and while they were large enough, it confused me somewhat because the bulb seemed to be composed of one large clove; there were no ridges showing separate cloves. It seems this is normal and while the bulb is drying after harvest the separate cloves become more pronounced.

Drying out of the sun

Harvesting the bulbs during dry weather is the best so that the skin is dry as a wet slimy skin can encourage fungal diseases and reduce storage life. To harvest I just pulled the bulbs and then rubbed any extra dirt off them and then placed them out of the sun (to avoid sunburn on the outer skin of the bulbs) in an airy space in the garage to dry out.

We will be storing the bulbs by hanging them up in bunches in the garage which will keep them dry and away from anything which might find them tasty (except me!).

Our first bulb trimmed up and ready for use!

If you are going to grow from your harvest next year, hard as it is to do, select the best bulbs and put them aside for replanting in the next season.

 


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