Growing My Food

How to Start Growing Your Own Food Cheaply and Easily

How to Grow Garlic – From Start to FInish

Where would we be without garlic?! The fantastic, pungent, sometimes sweet, or spicy veg that’s terribly good for you (and not just for repelling vampires) is one of the most indispensable food items in anyone’s kitchen. It’s antibacterial, antifungal, and if you roast them slowly, they turn sweet enough to eat just spread on toast or whizzed into a soup for an amazing flavour.

white and purple garlic in a metal bowl
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Yes, garlic is basically an essential item and if you’re a gardener you ought ot be growing a row or two if it. But how to grow? Garlic is a funny one, because you can actually have TWO opportunities to sow it every year – late Autumn or Spring. I sowed mine in Autumn 2020 and they are coming along just nicely. Garlic likes the cold (apparently it comes from Siberia originally), and even needs some cold at the beginning, so it may as well go into the ground when it’s cool weather.

Garlic in the allotment
Garlic growing in the allotment

The simple steps to growing garlic are:

  1. Buy seed garlic from a seed merchant or galic specialist seller. This is not garlic from the supermarket, because that usually comes from Spain or China and is therefore not necessarily suited to our climate. Much of the UK garlic comes from the Isle of Wight and you will see varieties with “Wight” in the name, such as “Purple Wight” haha;
  2. Split the bulbs into individual cloves. Don’t peel them. Pick out the best ones to sow. The pointy end is the top and the flat bit is the bottom;
  3. Push them, pointy side up, into your prepared ground, which should not be too wet, a 3-4″ inches apart (8-10cm) and leave about 6″ (15cm) between rows. This is so you can use a hoe against weeds but also to mix in any amendments (maybe lime as garlic doesn’t like acidic soil). You can also use the rows as channels for any ecess water run-off, as garlic shouldn’t be in soggy ground, it needs decent drainage;
  4. This should be done in Oct/Nov or in Feb/Mar. Garlic is very easy, suffers almost no problems, and you can pull them between July and October when the leaves start turning yellow and falling over.

Watering is not essential unless we get a long amount of dry weather (this is common in East Anglia) in this case I water about every 10-14 days. If your soil is quite heavy, like my heavy clay here, you might have the opposite problem of too much moisture, in which case when sowing, don’t push the garlic in too deep. If your soil is light, you can push the garlic in a little more and cover over lightly. Heavy, wet soils are not great but you can adapt and cope in many ways. For example, you could sow garlic in compost in trays and put it in an unheated greenhouse or coldframe, then transfer in Spring. Otherwise, you could add some sand or dry compost to your growing area.

There are two types of garlic – softneck and hardneck. Softneck are the storing garlic – you know, the kind that are plaited and stereotypically worn around Frenchmen’s necks whilst riding a bicycle.

stereotypical Frenchman wearing garlic around his neck
Stereotypical Frenchman wearing garlic

Hardneck garlic is usually eaten quite quickly, as even under the best conditions it’ll only keep for up to six months, unlike softneck which would typically be stored 6-12 months. One benefit of hardneck garlic, though, is that you typically get “scapes”, which are the immature flower shoots that grow up from this type of garlic. The can be chopped off and eaten, fried quickly around a wok or whizzed into a soup. The other benefit of hardneck varieties, is that they are the ones which have the really strong, garlicky flavour!

Have you tried growing garlic? Do you have any other questions? Feel free to ask me below:

Maeve

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