I believe that garlic is one of the simplest vegetables to grow in your garden during winter. I also believe that once you have had fresh grown garlic in your own garden you will not buy garlic from the supermarket or green grocer ever again unless it is organic and local. Never again will I eat rubbery garlic without any flavour imported from a foreign country.
You can grow it too. Growing your own garlic is simple, easy and very low maintenance.
Planting is also easy. In my climate zone, (heat zone 4, cold zone 10), I plant just after the first full moon in March or April. I find that the soil is still just warm enough so that the garlic shoots quickly and gets a good start. Take a decent sized garlic bulb, either from your seed provider or organic grocer and pull off the individual cloves. Only use the fattest cloves, as these will give you the largest bulbs. Use the smaller inside cloves in your next meal. This year I planted 5 bulbs of soft and hardneck garlic, and as recommended above, only the largest cloves.
When preparing the bed for planting, don’t add any fertiliser to the bed if you did so in the summer. You will get more leaves and smaller bulbs. Plant the garlic in a bed that you had a very hungry crop before hand, like Brassica or tomatoes.
Make a hole with your dibber (I use a bit of old sawn off broom handle) about 2″ deep (5 cm) and then place each clove in the hold pointy end facing upwards. Plant them about 6″ (15cm) apart, so that you get good-sized bulbs. The closer they are to each other the smaller the bulbs.
Fertilize Your Garlic
Around mid winter, I apply a couple of handfuls of blood and bone fertiliser to the bed and water in. This gives them a boost as they are beginning to form the bulbs just before the start of spring. This is what they look like after about a month and a half.
Harvesting Your Garlic
In late spring (depending on your heat zone) the big stalks start to go yellow and fall over. This is the sign that your garlic is ready to harvest. So come harvest time this is what you should see in the bed.
Note that the tops are falling over and going yellow. This is the sign that they are ready to harvest.
This is the bed after the harvest. Make sure you find them all. Last year I missed some and they grew again in Autumn. I pulled them and put them in my designated garlic patch for this season. They grew very well.
Hardening the Bulbs
Here is the harvested garlic laid out on a big towel on my deck. It has been so wet of late that I even picked the green topped ones, because I was afraid that the entire crop would rot in the ground. The deck was the only dry place and elevated place I had outdoors. Every other place has a small creek flowing through it as some time or another.
Needless to say, there are some bloody big bulbs of garlic this year due to all the rain we have had.
Some almost as big as my hand. These garlic are not, I repeat not Russian Elephant garlic, which is really a form of leek. These are normal everyday purple garlic that I saved from last years crop.
As I mentioned, garlic is easy, maintenance free and simple to grow over the Australian autumn, winter and spring. When harvested in spring, once dry, it will last until late winter the next year before trying to sprout again. That is of course unless you eat it all first.
Garlic is easy to store. Check out this post titled How To Store Garlic for further details.
Happy growing and harvesting!