Garlic is best planted in full sun and in an area not prone to water-logging, the full sun allows the garlic to grow quickly which is best in order to grow good-sized bulbs and picking an area free of water-logging ensures the bulbs will not rot over winter.
When to plant Garlic
The best time to plant garlic in mid-October as better sized bulbs will benefit from an autumn sowing. Dig the soil to at least a spade’s depth before planting and incorporate as much organic matter to assist with drainage, otherwise, the garlic will rot in water-logged conditions.
If at all possible purchase sand (from your local garden centre) as this will also improve the drainage even further. Some bone meal should also be spread out around the plants.
How to plant Garlic
When planting gently remove the outer skin from the bulb (not from the actual cloves themselves) and separate into individual cloves.
Plant each clove in an upright position 2cm (1inch) below the soil surface, the bluntest end should be lowest in the ground with the pointed end just below the soil surface. Each clove should be 10cm (4inches) apart and if planting in rows, space each row 45cm (18inches) apart.
Garlic will thrive in well-fed soil, so in late March and again in mid-May feed the soil with a general-purpose fertilizer. If you can do this once or twice a month all the better. Other than this the only other thing required is to keep them free of weeds. In dry conditions keep them well watered.
Garlic is generally ready to harvest when most of the foliage has turned yellowy-brown; this is normally around mid-August. The issue some people have with harvesting garlic is knowing when they are ready – harvesting too early will result in the bulbs being small; harvesting too late results in the bulbs splitting, making harvest difficult and the cloves poor quality.
Problems occur mainly in wet summers, the foliage may only have started to turn yellow, but if left in the wet ground too long the garlic will quickly become diseased. For this reason, there is a second method that can be used to determine which stage they have reached. In wet weather during early August, pull up just one bulb and see how many sheaths (the very thin paper-like layers around the bulb) you can peel off from the bulb – if there are only three then harvest the bulbs, if there are more than wait another two weeks, or until the foliage has turned brown.
When harvesting gently eases the garlic bulbs out of the ground, using a trowel to loosen the surrounding soil, although be careful not to bruise them with the trowel as they will not keep for long if this occurs.
The best garlic is fresh from the ground, as this is sweeter, less pungent and far more digestible than dried garlic. So to get the best out of your garlic you should use the cloves as soon as possible. However, the majority can be washed, dried and then placed in a warm dry place in the garden (bring indoors in event of rain) to dry out; these bulbs will keep in good condition for 3 months or more.
Ready to plant your own vegetables now you know how to grow Garlic? Take a look at our vegetable seed collection.