Garlic. It’s one of the most important ingredients in cooking. In the same family as onions and shallots, garlic is bursting with a bold savoury flavour, making it a staple in many of the world’s cuisines. It is one of those ingredients many people always have in their cupboards. But what about their gardens?
You can grow dozens of garlic bulbs from single cloves, giving a great return rate. Growing garlic is very simple, and autumn is the perfect time to start planting cloves. To find out more about growing garlic in your garden, so you never run low on this essential ingredient, read on!
With an abundance of garlic varieties available, it can be hard to know which one to choose. Whilst softneck varieties are the most common type found in supermarkets, they are best suited to the milder climate of the south due to hardiness. Hardneck varieties are hardier, more suited to the climate and can be grown all over the UK.
- Chesnok White – with purple striping bulbs, this hardneck variety has a strong flavour which makes it great for garlic bread
- Bianco Veneto – a softneck variety that thrives in colder conditions and stores well
- Early Purple Wight – bred on the Isle of Wight, the purple-tinged bulbs of this softneck variety are best used within three months
- Iberian Wight – originating from Spain, Iberian Wight is a softneck variety which produces large cloves
- Solent Wight – also bred on the Isle of Wight, this softneck variety is particularly suited to the UK climate and is an overall winner in terms of taste and lifespan. Its large bulbs are easily plaited.
As mentioned previously, garlic is best planted in autumn to late winter when the temperature is cooler. Planting depends widely on climate. In milder southern regions, cloves can be planted directly into the ground and protected with cloches. If you live a colder part of the country, plant cloves in seed trays ready to set out into the ground in early springtime.
Planting garlic is pretty simple. Each clove will produce a plant. Preferably, buy your chosen variety from a garden supplier rather than the supermarket, as these will be especially bred for the local climate. Break the garlic bulb up into cloves, being careful not to damage them.
If planting directly into the ground, after preparing your soil, simply push the cloves into the soil at 10cm intervals. Make sure the tip of each clove is left exposed.
In colder areas, fill a seed tray with multi-purpose compost and plant one clove in each space. Water and place in a cold frame; the garlic plants should be ready to be planted in the ground from march onward.
Growing garlic is relatively low maintenance, so you will not have to be tending to you garlic for hours each day, you will be pleased to hear. Just ensure you weed between the plants so that the garlic plants have enough space and there is less competition for water. If your garlic plants begin to flower, remove them as soon as possible, but do not throw away! These flower stalks are great in salads and stir fries. If the flowers are left, the garlic will produce a smaller yield.
To ensure the juiciest bulbs, check to see if the soil is dry every couple of weeks, and water sparingly if there is a dryer period.
Garlic is ready to be harvested in early summer. The telltale sign is when the leaves of the garlic plant turn yellow and begin to wither. To extract the bulbs from the ground, take a trowel and loosen them taking care not to cut them; this reduce the length of time they will store for. If the bulbs are left too long, they will re-sprout or start to rot in the ground so make sure to harvest them opportunely.
Lay the garlic bulbs out in a warm place until they are dry. Garlic can be stored by plaiting the bulbs together and storing in the kitchen. Alternatively, keep garlic in a bowl containing holes to ensure the bulbs are able to ‘breath’. Do not make the mistake of storing garlic in the fridge – it causes bulbs to go off faster. Garlic stores best at room temperature.
Overall, growing garlic is easy, low maintenance and hassle free. Plus, you’ll never be low on garlic again!
Megan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.