Garlic is an essential ingredient of any kitchen garden. Incredibly easy to grow and full of health benefits, it really is worth finding the space to grow your own.
Types of Garlic
There are 2 different types of garlic to choose from, hardneck and softneck varieties.
Hardneck varieties are the closest to the wild garlic. The plants produce a flowering stem, known as a scape which should be removed and can be used in stir fries, salads and sauces. They are very hardy, thriving throughout the UK and are ideal for northern areas. Hardneck varieties produce larger cloves but do not store as long as softneck varieties.
Softneck varieties are less hardy but will grow well in all but the coldest and most exposed areas, here they will benefit from cloche protection during the winter. Generally the flavour is a little milder and they will also store longer than hardnecks, the cloves are more numerous but smaller.
How to Grow
Garlic is easy to grow in a sunny position and a well-drained soil with either spring planting or autumn planting varieties available. Prepare your soil well. Mix in lots of good compost before you start planting. Break up the bulbs no longer than 24 hours before you plant them. Place the cloves 3-4cm (1-2″) below the surface, root down (pointy end up) 15cm apart in rows 15-20cm (6-8″) apart.
You need to water, feed and keep your garlic weed free to get the best result and highest yields. Water your garlic during dry periods throughout the growing season, stopping watering completely during the last few weeks. In February apply a high potash fertilizer to your garlic; this will give it all the nutrients it needs to grow wonderfully.
Your garlic will tell you when it’s time to be harvested. Too early and you’ll miss the final growth spurt, too late and the bulbs will rot in the ground. Hardneck varieties will be ready to lift when the leaves start to change colour. Softneck varieties are ready when the leaves go floppy and lie on the ground. If the sun is shining, leave the garlic to dry on the ground, if the rain comes, bring into a greenhouse or shed to dry.
For Smaller Spaces
Garlic can be successfully grown in pots on the patio. We recommend planting three cloves to a 15cm (6″) pot, 6 to a 20cm (8″) pot, and 8-10 to a 25cm (10″) pot. Keep well-watered and stand outside on a patio or window ledge.