Why you should grow your own Garlic

If like me you love to cook then I’m sure garlic is an essential ingredient in your kitchen. I can’t think of a week that goes by without the use of garlic in the dishes I prepare at home.

Step away from the supermarket shelves and you will discover a huge variety of garlic available. The great news is it’s easy to grow your own.

add-heading-1Humans have consumed garlic for 7,000 years. It grows all over the world but by far the largest producer of the pungent crop is China which grows 20 million tonnes of it every year.

Garlic is a close relative of the Onion, Shallot, Leek and Chive. It is native to Central Asia and a frequent seasoning in Asian cooking as well as a culinary staple in African and European cuisine.

Types of garlic

Garlic is subdivided into two varieties. Softneck and Hardneck.

Softneck: Softneck garlic is the type you’ll most likely see in supermarket. It has a soft, pliable stalk suitable for braiding. It has better storage qualities than hardneck varieties.

RHS recommended Softneck varieties:

‘Early Wight’: Early maturing; can be harvested at end of May from autumn planting, best used soon after harvest as it is not good for storage.
‘Solent Wight’: Late summer maturing, very good for storage.
‘Germidour’: Late maturing, purple skinned cloves.
‘Purple Heritage Moldovan’ or ‘Purple Moldovan’: Late maturing, heirloom cultivar, producing large purple cloves.

Hardneck: Hardneck varieties originate from climates with colder winters. They have an extremely firm stalk protruding an inch or two from the top of the bulb. Hardneck varieties have fewer, larger cloves, a more intense flavour but only store until mid-winter.

RHS recommended Hardneck varieties:

‘Chesnok Wight’: Good cropper, early summer maturing cultivar, skin and cloves with deep purple veining, strong flavour.
‘Lautrec Wight’: Maturing in early summer, suitable for both autumn and early spring planting, does not perform well on heavier soils and cold areas. Considered to be one of the best flavoured cultivars.
‘Red Sicilian’: Early summer maturing, spicy flavour, good for roasting.

 

How to grow garlic

Planting out next season’s garlic is one of my favourite things to do in the autumn. It’s a very easy crop to grow and I highly recommend growing your own in your allotments and kitchen gardens.

Garlic can be planted out anytime from mid-autumn to late winter. However, the best yields are obtained when planted out before Christmas.

Planting:

1. Choose a location on the allotment or garden that will get plenty of sunshine. The garlic bulbs will need this warmth to ripen. Garlic likes a rich soil which is moisture retentive but allows good drainage. Our allotment is heavy clay so I try to dig in as much organic matter as possible into the soil in advance of planting in the autumn. Don’t plant on freshly manured ground as this can cause the cloves to rot.

2. Just before you plant your garlic out, rake into the top few centimetres of the soil some general fertiliser. I use fish, blood and bone.

3. Gently split the bulb into individual cloves and use a dibber or trowel to plant the cloves with the tip just below the surface, 6” apart in rows 12” apart.

Cultivation:

4. In early spring add another dusting of fertiliser. You might like to try The Garlic Farm’s special blend of garlic fertiliser.

5. Give the plants an occasional thorough watering during dry spells but don’t water when the bulbs are well formed and in their last few growing weeks.

Harvesting and storing:

6. Garlic plants are ready to harvest when the leaves turn yellow and the stems start to fall over. Anytime from mid-summer.

7. If the weather permits, leave the bulbs to dry out in the sun. If it’s wet then a dry shed or garage will be fine. Knock off any dry soil and store in net bags or plait the stems and hang in a cool, dry place.

Are you growing garlic? I’d love to hear from you. Drop me a comment below or connect with me on TwitterInstagram and Pinterest.

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12 thoughts on “Why you should grow your own Garlic

  1. Hi Richard,
    it’s worth mentioning the difference in harvesting soft and hard garlic with regard to bolting (flower spike). Hardneck garlic is not spoilt by the flower shoot, in fact you can harvest those and fry them, then leave the bulbs to carry on growing. Having only grown softneck before (you don’t want them to bolt) I thought my hardnecks were going to be useless and pulled them up before discovering the difference!
    For some reason, this is not mentioned on many websites, and it’s not on the RHS garlic info page.
    Perhaps you can find out the science for us! Judy

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Judy thank you. Thats a brilliant bit of advice. I’ve not grown hardneck before and I would like fall into the same trap. I have planted some elephant garlic this year. I have heard that sends up a flower spike. Is it similar to a hardneck?

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      1. You are right though. I could find very little on hardneck varieties when making notes for my own planting this year. I wonder how popular hardneck varieties are. They are said to have a stronger flavour so for that they seem worth it. Short storage qualities is a potential issue but I guess growing a few hardneck for cooking with in short term and more softneck varieties for storage and longer term..

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  2. Hi Richard, I’ve just come across your post. At the moment I’m only growing Hardneck varieties, so I thought I’d leave a comment since people are asking about them.

    I blogged about garlic recently and have photos of the garlic scrapes (what the stem is called) so people can see what they are: http://www.gwenfarsgarden.info/2016/09/spoonie-veg-garlic.html.

    Whilst some Hardnecks don’t store that long, the 8 I am growing all store just as well as Softnecks. I have a doc here https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B1V6dQrcIVPxYU9xUkdhSV9haUk/view that goes into a little detail about each of them, including their storage qualities. I’m keeping notes again of their storage use from this years crops again, as I found last years crop all stored for even longer that the c. 5-6 months (something like c. 8-10 months) that is listed in my doc. So I am recording their flavour & storage quantities again and will update the doc next year. But in general, I’d say if you store them right, they store just as well as Softnecks.

    At the moment I only have a small garden, so I’m limiting myself to growing Hardnecks because all the varieties I grow are unusual and not readily available anywhere in the UK. But when I am able to grow more in the future, I would go back to growing a mix of Hardnecks & Softnecks, as you note above.

    Great post and I love it when I meet fellow garlic aficionados.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi julienne. Thanks so much for the comment. I read your fantastic post on garlic just after writing this one. I’m so glad you have provided these links. I really wanted to know more about hardneck varieties as there’s not very much about on them. This is really interesting thank you. I love garlic. I use it so much in the kitchen. Since starting with my allotment I always like to read up and learn as much as I can about each crop I grow. Garlic is such a great thing to grow yourself. So easy and when you realise how many varieties there are it’s unbelievable 😀

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