Garlic is a really healthy vegetable, and is popular in Mediterranean and Asian cooking, so it’s hardly surprising it has become popular to grow at home. Garlic is simple to grow and you’ll get plenty of fat, juicy garlic bulbs, if you grow in a sunny site. Don’t be tempted to plant garlic cloves from the supermarket though, buy from a garden centre or mail order supplier.
Garlic casts no shade and is vulnerable to being smothered by weeds. You can avoid this by removing weeds regularly before they become established.
Garlic does not need additional watering, although during spring and early summer an occasional thorough watering during dry spells will improve yields. Don’t water once the bulbs are large and well-formed, as this could encourage rotting.
Snip off any flowers that form.
Garlic grows well in any sunny, fertile site. For every square metre/yard add 50g (2oz) of general-purpose fertiliser before planting.
It is best not to plant garlic cloves bought from a supermarket – they may carry disease and may not be suited to the climate. Instead, buy them from a garden centre or mail order supplier.
Garlic is best planted in late autumn or early winter; the general rule of thumb is to plant cloves before Christmas.
Break up the bulbs and plant individual cloves just below the soil surface 15cm (6in) apart and in rows 30cm (12in) apart.
Prevent birds from pulling up the cloves by covering the rows with horticultural fleece.
Onion white rot: A soil-borne fungus that can cause yellowing and wilting of the foliage above ground, while rotting the roots and invading the bulb beneath the soil. A white fluffy fungus appears on the base of the bulb and later becomes covered in small, round black structures.
Remedy: There is no chemical cure for onion white rot when it is the soil. It is important to avoid introduction to previously clean sites. It is transported in contaminated soil, for example on tools or on muddy footwear. Take particular care in areas where cross contamination can occur easily, for example on allotments.
Leek rust: This is a fungal disease causing bright yellow spots on the leaves. It is often worse in long, wet spells.
Remedy: Mild attacks of rust won’t harm the plant, but serious infections may cause leaves to shrivel and affect yield. There is no control for rust once you have the infection. Make sure you don’t crowd plants, as this increases humidity and increases the likelihood of infection. Dispose of any badly affected plant material, and don’t grow garlic, leeks or onions in the same spot for three years.
Birds: Birds, especially pigeons, can cause an array of problems including eating seedlings, buds, leaves, fruit and vegetables.
Remedy: Protect the plants from birds by covering them with netting or fleece. Scarecrows and bird-scaring mechanisms work for a while, but the most reliable method of protection is to cover plants with horticultural fleece or mesh.
Green leaves can be gathered green and used as a garnish or in salads, but the bulbs are harvested once the leaves have turned yellow.
Carefully lift them with a fork.
Lay out the bulbs to dry in an airy place. When rustling dry they can be stored in ventilated containers until you’re ready to use them.
Often ‘top sets’ or garlic cloves form on the stalk. This is due to changeable weather in spring. Gather and use the top sets in the usual way.